Several things struck me while watching Bailiwick's new production of Jeanine Tesori's vibrant musical "Violet". First, how important it is that Bailiwick exsists and the importance of the work that they have done and continue to do, as well as the immense amount of talent that has come out of this theatre group from the beginning of the David Zak days to its current incarnation. Second, no other group in Chicago are doing these type of musical. As with Bare, Passing Strange and now Violet, Chicago is getting a taste of musicals that have fallen under the radar but are rare in their depth and understanding of spirit.
"Violet" which is based on a short story "The Ugliest Pilgram" by Doris Betts, follows the journey of a woman who is badly disfiqured in an accient caused by her father's own hand. As Violet crosses the country in search of redemtion, both physically and spiritually, she encounters people who in some form or another teach her to accept the beauty within.
Housed at the Mercury Theatre, "Violet" is a solid production due to the strong cast led by the amazing Harmony France who has one of the finest voices in Chicago. She commands every scene she is in and gives the her numbers a lyrical quality that must be heard to be believed. Supported by the equally talented Courney Crouse and Evan Tyrone Martin who vie for Violet's attention, the second act will leave you feeling as redeemed as the title character.
The cast succeeds where other elements in the production fail, including a set that complicates the actors blocking, especially by having the orchestra in the center scrim, as well as a sound designer who has clearly never worked at the Mercury before.
Aside for the technical failing of the production, "Violet" is a solid, important production that continues Bailiwick's legacy of socially moving and relevant musicals. "Violet" Runs September 20, 2011-October 16, 2011 at Mercury Theater 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL 60613: Tickets: mercurytheatrechicago.com