Sutton Foster Takes 'Violet' to Broadway

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Sutton Foster

The "Bunheads" star will headline the 1997 musical by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, about a scarred young woman's dream of transformation.

NEW YORK – Sutton Foster, a five-time lead actress Tony nominee who has won twice for her triple-threat musical theater chops, will return to Broadway next spring in Violet.

The Roundabout Theatre Company production will be an expanded version of the special one-night concert event presented in July by City Centers Encores! Reviewing that staging in The New York Times, Stephen Holden described it as “deeply stirring,” calling the 1997 musical “ahead of its time in examining the national obsession with physical beauty and transformation expressed in makeovers and cosmetic surgery.”

Foster stars as the title character, a facially disfigured North Carolina girl in the mid-1960s who dreams of having flawless Hollywood-style looks and believes an Oklahoma televangelist is her ticket to wish fulfillment.

Leigh Silverman, who staged the concert, will direct the Broadway production. It starts previews March 28 at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre, with the official opening set for April 20. The show is scheduled for a limited engagement through August 10, with full casting to be announced.

Composer Jeanine Tesori wrote the music for Violet, with book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, based on the Doris Betts short story The Ugliest Pilgrim. The musical originally premiered in 1997 in New York at Playwrights Horizons; this will mark its first Broadway production.

Foster won the Tony for lead actress in a musical in 2002 for Thoroughly Modern Millie and again in 2011 for Anything Goes, which was also produced by Roundabout. She was nominated in the same category for Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone and Shrek: The Musical. She took a break from Broadway while starring in the ABC Family series Bunheads.

Tesori collaborated with Tony Kushner on the 2003 musical Caroline, or Change and on music for Kushner’s translation of the Bertolt Brecht classic Mother Courage and Her Children, presented as part of the Public Theater’s 2006 Shakespeare in the Park season, with Meryl Streep in the title role. Tesori worked previously with Foster as composer of additional songs for Thoroughly Modern Millie, and of the original score for Shrek.

She teamed with book writer and lyricist Lisa Kron on one of this season’s best-reviewed Off Broadway hits, Fun Home, a musical about a lesbian cartoonist who discovers her father is also gay, based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel. That show has extended its run at the Public through Dec. 29.

Roundabout is producing Violet in association with Bunheads creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, David Mirvish, Barry and Fran Weissler, Elizabeth Armstrong and Mary Jo and Ted Sheng.

The current theater season is packed with new musicals but relatively light on revivals. In addition to Violet, other entries confirmed in that category to date include the return of Les Miserables, starting performances March 1; Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, opening April 22; and also from Roundabout, Cabaret, co-directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall and starring Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams, which opens April 24 at Studio 54.