Show History



Violet is based on the short story, The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts. It tells the story of a young disfigured woman who embarks on a journey by bus from her farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in order to be healed.


Begun by composer Jeanine Tesori and lyricist/bookwriter Brian Crawley at the famed Lehman Engel/BMI Musical Theater Workshop, Violet continued development at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut in 1994, before premiering Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on March 11, 1997, and running through April 6, 1997. Directed by Susan H. Schulman with choreography by Kathleen Marshall, the cast featured Lauren Ward as Violet, Michael McElroy as Flick and Michael Park as Monty.

In July of 2013, the musical returned to New York as a one-night, limited engagement mounted by the Encores! Off-Center program at City Center. This reimagined concert version featured stage and screen star Sutton Foster in the title role. The production was well-received by critics, leading to a limited Broadway engagement mounted by Roundabout Theatre Company, beginning previews March 28, 2014, with an official opening on April 20, 2014. Sutton Foster reprised her role as the titular character, with Leigh Silverman directing and choreography by Jeffrey Page.

Between its Off-Broadway debut and Broadway run, Violet became a university favorite and enjoyed much regional success at such theatres as Chicago's Mercury Theatre, Ford's Theatre of Washington, D.C., and Seattle's A Contemporary Theater.

Cultural Influence

  • A cast album from the original Off-Broadway cast was recorded by Resmiranda Records and released on February 9, 1999. A new recording from the Broadway cast was released by P.S. Classics in June of 2014.
  • Violet put author Jenine Tesori on the New York theatre map as a composer, leading to her later success with such musicals as Thoroughly Modern Millie; Shrek; and Caroline, or Change.


  • In addition to the awards that it won, Violet was nominated for an incredible seven Drama Desk Awards, including one for Best New Musical, as well as an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical.
  • In 2003, at the opening of the renovated Playwrights Horizons facility, the entire original Off-Broadway company of Violet was reunited for a series of special concert performances of this joyously life-affirming musical.
  • Although a story about a disfigured girl, the original production of Violet did not have the actress in any makeup. Her "scar" was left up to the audience's imagination.