Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Parade Music/Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown Book by Alfred Uhry
Music/Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Alfred Uhry
Co-conceived and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince
Directed by Joey DeMita – Music Directed by Steven Bergman
Arsenal Center for the Arts
F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
I was not familiar with The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company even though this was their 12th anniversary season’s inaugural production. And to be honest, I am sorry I missed the first 11 seasons if their productions were as good as Parade.
The play is a musical based on a tragic incident in Marietta, Georgia in 1913 in which a young girl, Mary Phagan, is murdered. Looking for a scapegoat, newspaper editor Tom Watson and prosecutor Hugh Dorsey concoct evidence and create witnesses to bring a killer to justice – Leo Frank, a Jew. Dorsey coerces, connives and coaches to insure a conviction. Following the conviction and death penalty, Frank has his sentence commuted to life, but then is lynched. Dorsey goes on to become governor. Tom Watson, publisher of the local newspaper which made sure “evidence” was widely circulated, became a United States Senator.
The play makes it clear that anti-Semitism, Frank was a Jew from Brooklyn, is the motivating force behind the entire arrest, trial and ultimate lynching.
Adam Schuler as Leo Frank and Lori L’Italien as Lucille Frank offer fine voices and acting. L’Italien is operatically trained and her voice and phrasing exemplify her training and experience. Schuler’s acting is excellent, and as the play progresses, so does his singing voice which proves to be excellent as well. Although married to each other, Lucille, a southern Jew and Frank, a Brooklyn Jew, have at best a distant relationship which grows in to love as their adversity increases and tragedy becomes inevitable. The play can also be viewed as a commentary on the Holocaust where love survived even more unspeakable horrors.
Kelton Washington, who plays three roles, is a student at Berklee College and plans on graduate school before heading to Broadway where his talent as actor and singer are sure to find success. Washington portrays an old man, a young man, and an ex-chain gang prisoner with equal conviction . His singing range is exceptional and more than matches his acting talent.
Kira Cowan as Minnie, the Franks’ maid, is a talented singer with a promising future. Ken Orben as Hugh Dorsey is a deliciously arrogant prosecutor with his nose up and morals down. This is, of course, to take nothing away from all the actors, all of whom have fine voices and acting abilities.
The set design by director Joey DeMita is well coordinated with his lighting design. At the center of the backdrop is a dark tree with many branches. It is a two-fold representation, first as the tree of life and second as the tree of death, its darkness foreshadowing Frank’s lynching.
If there is any minor problem with the play it is the orchestra which on occasion overpowers the singers. This perhaps can be attributed to the size of the small theatre in which Parade is staged. The music is heavily dependent on rooted in American forms such as pop and rock as well as folk, rhythm and blues and gospel. It is ably conducted and performed by the six member orchestra.
Alfred Uhry, who wrote the Broadway book, is an Atlanta native whose great-uncle owned the pencil factory managed by Leo Frank, which gives him a certain expertise on the entire affair.
The play is a commentary on anti-Semitism, mass hysteria. It also portrays the immorality of lawyers, media and witnesses.
F.U.D.G.E. (Friends United Developing Genuine Entertainment) is a first class theatre company bringing high quality performers to the stage in plays that have relevance.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7