Prison frees couple to find latent love
By Sandra C. Dillard
Denver Post Theater Critic
Sept. 11, 2000 - Legendary director
Hal Prince insists the musical "Parade"
is not about a lynching.
The show is by
Uhry, whose works
include "Driving Miss
Daisy" and "The Last
Night of Ballyhoo."
Directed by Prince,
it's based on the
story of Leo Frank,
supervisor of a
pencil factory in Atlanta, who in 1913 was tried and convicted for
the murder of one of his employees, 13-year-old Mary Phagan.
The case stirred great passions and a swell of anti-Semitism. In
1915, shortly after Frank's death sentence was commuted to life
imprisonment, he was hauled out of a Georgia jail by an angry
mob and lynched. (The Georgia Board of Pardons granted Frank a
posthumous pardon March 11, 1986.) "But "Parade' is not about a
lynching," said Prince, who along with directing also is
coconceiver of the musical. "The lynching is an event in it, but
most of what it's about is two people who get married. And
they're both good, decent people who will probably go on being
polite to each other, and having a family, but never really
knowing and loving each other.
"What happens is an event en ters their lives, a traumatizing
event, and they change. They become different. They are people
finding out who they really are, and falling in love," said Prince,
interviewed by telephone from his New York office.
"Parade" opens Tuesday at the Buell Theatre on national tour and
runs through Sept. 24, presented by Denver Center Attractions.
David Pittu, who most recently appeared in the national tour of
"Titanic," stars as Leo. Lucille, Frank's wife, is played by Andrea
Burns, who recently completed a successful run in the New York
premiere of Stephen Sondheim's "Saturday Night." Leo and Lucille
Frank were brought together in an arranged marriage, and not
until after his arrest and imprisonment was the chilly Leo finally
able to express his feelings. For her part, Lucille becomes a
proud, asser tive woman and her husband's most effective
"I said to the actor playing the Leo Frank role, "This is a man in
prison, (and) in the prison of his own personality, with his fears
and his inability to connect. He becomes free in prison,'- " Prince
said. Co-creator Uhry won the Pulitzer Prize for "Driving Miss
Daisy," and later an Oscar when the play was made into a movie.
He won the Tony Award for his drama "The Last Night of
Ballyhoo." Both plays are in set in the Atlanta area, as is
"Parade." (Uhry, who is Jewish, grew up in Atlanta and knew
Lucille Frank, who was a friend of his grandmother's.)
Also in the cast is Rick Hilsabeck, best known to audiences for his
portrayal of The Phantom in the national touring company of "The
Phantom of the Opera" (including the Denver engagement in the
winter of 1996-97). Hilsabeck, who lives in Colorado with his
actress wife, is playing Gov. Slaton.
Peter Samuels, who starred as Eliot Ness in the the Denver
Center Theatre Company world premiere of the musical, "Eliot
Ness in Cleveland," is appearing in "Parade" as Hugh Dorsey.
"Parade," which won the 1999 Tony Award for best book of a
musical and best original score, didn't fare well on Broadway,
despite the collaboration of Uhry and Prince, who helmed "The
Phantom of the Opera," "Show Boat," "Kiss of the Spider Woman,"
"Cabaret," "Evita" and many others.
"Parade" opened in late December 1998 and closed in February
1999, well before the June 1999 Tony awards.
"It did not get a long run," Prince said, "but it also was a vic tim
of a really public bankruptcy by Livent, (the producing company)
when they bellied up and defaulted on a good deal of production
(tasks such as plans and advertising).
"I've done a lot of shows as serious as this," Prince said. "You
have to nurse them. Also, it's very hard for a show that isn't
around to win Tonys.
"I just think it's a wonderful show. It's not like I'm talking about a
show that doesn't work. I'm very happy with this show. It's been
reworked. We've been rehearsing all these weeks." Prince also
said he's had a chance to rethink some aspects of the show.
"I looked and saw a second-act opener that none of us realized
(before) was a second-act opener, so we moved it. We also
trimmed 12 minutes." There are still disagreements over whether
or not Frank was guilty, and the issue probably will never be
"But the purpose of "Parade' is not to revisit a crime scene, but
to musicalize the story of two human beings who are caught up
in a traumatic situation and are the better for it," Prince said.
"Most people have shocks and surprises in their lives, and how
you deal with those crises is ultimately the story of who you are.
"I leave "Parade' feeling exhilarated.''
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