None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Violet (page 107)
American High School Theatre Festival
Company Jenny Beck-Esmay; Brad Beahen; Jake Blue; Katy and Rob Knutson; Michelle Luedtke; Anoka Theatre Group, Kent Knutson (Producer)
Venue Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road (Venue 137)
Address Morningside Road
Reviewer Mairi Anderson
The work produced by the American High School Theatre Festival is of a consistently outstanding quality, but with each year they seem to get even better. This production by Kent Knutson for the Anoka Theatre Group is a musical which was new to me. It's the story of a young woman coming to terms with disfigurement and finding true beauty and love, in herself and in others.
The story takes us on an emotional roller-coaster, as the gifted young cast effortlessly explore each mood, from the exuberance of the pop and gospel songs, through the sensuality and sensitivity of the love songs to the pathos and power of the ballads.
The chorus have tremendous energy and power, both vocally and in their well choreographed dance routines. The leads, all so gifted, gave us many highlights.
Jenny Beck-Esmay plays Violet with sensitivity and has the power and vocal ability to carry the central role. Her rendition of Lay Down Your Head was hauntingly beautiful and expressed so much tenderness. The absolute show stopper for me was Brad Beahen as Flick performing Let It Sing. It was electrifying. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I didn't want the song to ever end. I don't know what his future plans are, but if there is any justice in the world, then "Let him sing!" He has a quality to his voice, very rarely encountered, which touches the soul. Jake Blue has all the right qualities to play Monty, the other male lead. He has the looks, the voice and the stage presence. I feel his main strength is in the tenderness and vulnerability he brings to the love songs, particularly You're Different and Promise Me, Violet.
There is a sub text running through the story which explores the father/daughter relationship with insight and sensitivity. Katy and Rob Knutson as young Violet and her father gave a touching performance throughout which moved me to tears when Rob sang That's What I Could Do. Michelle Luedtke as Lula was in her natural element as the lead gospel singer and all of the Radio/Music Hall singers were first class.
The rousing finale Bring Me to Light brought all of the musical and emotional strands together and earned the cast a well deserved standing ovation. This was a stunning, magical performance of a wonderful musical
© Mairi Anderson. 19 August 2002. Published on www.edinburghguide.com
Run: Wednesday August 21st at 12:15