Join Violet on the bus as she pursues her quest for a miracle to heal herself physically and emotionally, and make her whole and beautiful, only to find that the journey’s twists and turns instead allow her to discover the real meaning of beauty.
By Carol Edger Germain
You will enjoy being a ghost passenger on the bus and may experience some enlightenment yourself. Violet (Claire Adams) is in her 20’s, it’s 1964, and she’s off on a bus trip from North Carolina to Oklahoma to seek a faith-healing evangelist she’s seen on TV, certain he can heal the disfiguring facial scar she bears from a childhood accident. A diverse cast of characters impact her journey with humor, wisdom, and spiritual guidance. Violet is sometimes shadowed by her younger self (Lily Zager) and sometimes interacts with her recently deceased father (John Allsop), but we never get confused about where we are in time, those memory journeys are very well directed. Violet is used to people staring or turning away from her in her small home town, she’s gloomy but hopeful that she will find the healing she needs.
The audience is with her all the way, enjoying seeing her spirits lift as her life experience broadens. Along the way Violet meets two soldiers who are key to her journey – Flick (Jahmaul Bakare) and Monty (Morgan West). Flick is hoping the military will afford him a sense of respect as a black man to partially overcome the racism he experiences on a daily basis in the segregated South (the newly-minted Civil Rights Act had not had any impact yet in that summer of 1964, not that it has been all that effective in the 50 years since either), but even the military has racial roadblocks. He’s bitter about his unasked-for circumstances, but kind and accepting of Violet and her scar. The audience never sees the scar, as Violet is not made up to show it, but we feel it and imagine it, and somehow her face seems cleaner and brighter near the end. Monty experiences feelings for Violet as well, and ends up in bed with her, but sees it as more than a “happy sendoff to Vietnam.”
Violet does find her preacher, but not the miracle she was looking for. Kevin Shewey is perfect as the grandiose, self-centered, and dismissive evangelist. He is so blatantly disconnected and uncaring beyond his stage performance that even Violet, impressionable and wanting to believe, easily discovers how fake he is. She is devastated and angry, but her journey continues, albeit in a different direction, involving not the anticipated miracle worker, but genuine, engaged folks intentionally as well as incidentally showing her the path. The entire cast is strong and talented. Some of the standouts, in addition to Violet/Adams’ acting and voice, are: Flick/Bakare’s powerful tenor voice, ringing the rafters with his gospel singing; evangelist choir member Benai Boyd’s uplifting “Raise Me Up”; and Lori Berg’s quirky and lovable dual roll as an old lady and a hooker.
This award-winning musical comes to life on a small stage, with seating arranged on three sides, bus windows on the walls behind us, and multi-purpose bus seats being stored in the first row of the audience and rolled into place for various scenes, effectively making us feel like we are on the bus with the travelers (kudos to Nicholas Acciani for set design and Martha Carter for lighting). Jeanine Tesori’s original score, assisted by lyricist Brian Crawley, encompasses American roots, gospel, and folk music, with touches of blues and pop as well, and drives the journey beautifully and engagingly.
• Music by Jeanine Tesori
• Lyrics by Brian Crawley
• Directed by Richard Israel
Actors Co-op Crossley Theatre
@ First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood
1760 N. Gower, Hollywood 90028
• Through Saturday, 6/30:
Fridays & Saturdays 8 pm; Sundays 2:30 pm. No performances 6/22, 6/23 & 6/24.
Two additional shows have been added: 6/29 at 8 pm, 6/30 at 8 pm.
General admission: $17 – $34 (discount tickets for some dates available @ goldstar.com)
We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.
Billionaires, hedge fund owners and local imposters have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.
While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.
You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.
Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)