Violet at ABET

The musical Violet opened the All Beaches Experimental Theatre’s 2019-2020 season and is in production through Sept. 29. This captivating production is not to be missed.

With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, Violet is based on The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts. Featuring a score ranging from American-roots to folk to gospel, the Tony-nominated musical won the Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical.

Set in the Deep South during the early days of the civil rights movement, Violet tells the moving story of a young woman accidentally scarred on the face as a child. Hoping that a TV evangelist can cure her, she embarks on a long bus ride from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Along the way, she meets two young soldiers who teach her about love, courage and the true meaning of beauty.

ABET’s poignant production is expertly directed by Michael Lipp with musical direction by Anthony Felton. The production features Jen Mercer as Violet and Clayton Riddley as Flick in the lead roles. Both deliver outstanding vocals and emotional performances played with subtlety, revealing the many layers of their characters.

Chris Berry is believable as the Monty. Emily Collins as Young Violet and Blake Michael Osner as Father are genuine and convincing in their roles. Brandon Kraut presents an impassioned Preacher and Dr. Johnetta Howard-Myers delivers a memorable, high-energy performance as Lula.

All of the voices in this show are wonderful and the ensemble supporting roles deliver beautiful harmonies, such as the Radio Singers featuring Kraut, Luke Gilboy and Brandon Hines. Also noteworthy are ensemble members Dawn Veree, who plays Old Lady and Hooker, and Elizabeth Bricknell, who plays the Music Hall Singer. The band provides excellent accompaniment and performs on stage. Joining Felton on piano is Sean Tillis on bass and David Ott on guitar.

Designed by Lipp with scenic designer Stephen Bifani, the set works well to tell Violet’s story. Pamela Joiner designed authentic costumes and Hines provides energetic choreography. The production team includes properties by Claire Cimino and lighting design by Bryan Frank. Grace Guevarez is the stage manager and Hunter Steinkel is the assistant stage manager.

Performances continue September 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29. Curtain is at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. The house opens 30 minutes before curtain.

Tickets are selling fast and opening weekend sold out in advance. Online tickets are $24 adults, $14 for under 18. Tickets at the door at $25 adults, $15 under 18.

For reservations, visit or call (904) 249-7177. ABET is located at 544 Atlantic Blvd. in Neptune Beach.