First off, there's something really special about the fact that this production premiered in Atlanta, seeing as how that's where the story takes place. I have a theory (which, fortunately for you, I won't go into in much detail) that part of the trouble that Parade experienced with its reception in the New York production had a little to do with geography. With most of the audience members being Northerners, I think they automatically identified with their Northerner protagonist (Leo) to the extent that they took on his prejudices, unconsciously pegging 'the Southerners' as the foe. And thus missing many of the finer points of the show in which we are allowed to understand things from the point of view of the Southern characters ("The Old Red Hills," "It Don't Make Sense," "My Child Will Forgive Me," etc.) and get the full effect of this very complex story.
But in Atlanta, we're coming from a different point-of-view. Now we have an audience full of people who are mostly Southern and are therefore going to be more attentive to the Southern-sympathetic aspects of the show, while at the same time (one hopes) recognizing this as a tragedy that resulted largely from a racism that has always been prevalent in the South. No doubt some of the audience members felt saddened and even a little ashamed seeing this embarrassing chapter in their history revived, but I would hope too that they were somewhat heartened to see the reality of this true story reflected in all its complex glory. With the original production, many folks weren't prepared to take in what amounted to one very multi-faceted story that was a tragedy in more than one way. They liked the love story, and they responded to the tragedy that Leo and Lucille faced, but many of the other details (class issues, the state of the post-war South, the effect Mary's death had on her friends and family, political corruption, etc.) were lost on them. Perhaps Southerners - since so many of those details relate more to them - will appreciate those extra dimensions to the story that others missed, while still feeling the full effect of the tragic love story at the heart of the show.
In any case, as many times as I saw Parade in New York, I never saw the audience seem as affected as they did at last night's performance. The woman behind me raved about it endlessly, people were crying, David Pittu and Andrea Burns got a standing ovation when they took their bows, and the post-show buzz seemed very positive. All in all, I think it went over quite well. Now to the particulars.
I can't say enough good things about the cast. They are all excellent. As I've said before, David Pittu gives a more assertive and less fussy Leo, but it is a higly effective interpretation of the role. Pittu's Leo, at first an intolerant little man, becomes by the end a true hero, full of compassion and integrity. Andrea Burns is perfect as Lucille - while maintaining Lucille's sweet nature, Ms. Burns displays all her subtle shifts of emotion as her experience takes her from a happily naive girl to an independent and brave woman, loyal to her husband and her home. Her youth (she's closer to the age of the real Lucille Frank) augments the tragic element, and her voice is divine. Though the entire cast is as good if not better than their predecessors, I'll single out a few ... Peter Samuel as Hugh Dorsey, Daniel Frank Kelley as Frankie Epps, Randy Redd as Britt Craig, Rick Hilsabeck and Elizabeth Brownlee and Governor and Sally Slaton, and Keith Byron Kirk as Jim Conley were all particularly impressive. But, really, the whole cast ... great singers and actors, every one of them. No wonder it took them so long to cast this show - they got the best people out there. And the orchestra sounded great, under the loving and energetic musical direction of the composer.
The last thing to cover would be the staging, and that is where the biggest change has occurred from the original production to this new one. Harold Prince's original vision was really lovely, fluid, and had a cinematic quality to it. It worked very well on the Beaumont's large thrust stage, but had to be altered to accomodate the kinds of stages it would encounter on this tour (Patricia Birch has reconceived much of the staging and choreography to this purpose). The unfortunate part is that the new staging is not quite as smooth or visually pleasing. (I think the reason for this basically comes down to the space constraints and some slightly inferior production values of the tour.) The loss of fluidity also accentuates the "problem" that Parade has from the get-go and that I mentioned above - it's telling several sides of one big story and things can get a little hairy. One minute a soldier is singing an anthem to his home, then Leo and Lucille argue about a picnic, then Frankie tries to convince Mary to go to the movies with him, then a reporter sings about how nothing ever happens in Atlanta and, well, you get the idea - there's a lot happening and it has to happen fast. For that reason, a cinematic staging probably serves the story better in the telling since it facilitated a quick and flowing pace for the show. *However,* I think that cinematic quality had a sort of distancing effect. This is the theatre after all, and, by definition, a cinematic staging is going to be somewhat anti-theatrical. So, although the new staging isn't as fluid as it used to be, the new production does seem more theatrical and much warmer, which is really nice and I think makes up for some of those other drawbacks.
A few random notes: The accents are considerably less annoying here than in the original production. There are a few insignificant line and word changes in the script, but nothing notable. Something about "A Rumblin' and a Rollin'" sounded different, and I can't quite figure it out. The night I went, all went well except that mics went out briefly a couple times and there were a couple small line flubs.
So, go see the tour.
It's a little different, but still the same wonderful show. Not one
of those scaled-down jobs, PARADE has retained a cast of the same quality
as the original (quite a feat!) and is as fascinating, touching, and beautiful
a story as it ever was.
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