Dramatic, funny "Parade' on route to local success

                                          By Sandra C. Dillard
                                          Denver Post Theater Critic

                                          Sept. 14, 2000 - Note to potential
                                          "Parade" patrons: Don't be put off by
                                          the forbidding phrase, "a musical about
                                          a lynching." This rich, tuneful, moving,
                                          dramatic and often very funny musical
                                          is much, much more than that.

                                          True, the show written by Alfred Uhry
                                          and directed by Hal Prince was inspired
                                          by the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, the
                                          Jewish supervisor of a pencil factory in
                                          Atlanta, who in 1913 was tried and
                                          convicted of the murder of one of his
                                          employees, 13-yearold Mary Phagan.

                                          But "Parade" is a tale as American as
                                          "Ragtime," and boasts a superb score,
                                          an involving story, and fabulous
                                          performances. Despite the
                                          stark-branched tree that looms over
                                          the stage and seems to grow as the
                                          action progresses, the lynching scene
                                          is just a tiny part of the whole.

                                          Far more important is the story of Leo
                                          and Lucille Frank, whose arranged
                                          marriage grows in to a genuine lasting,
                                          passionate love as they begin to truly
                    know one another after Leo's imprisonment.

                    Leo is wonderfully played by David Pittu, who first appears as a
                    cold, anal-retentive man in glinting spectacles and headto-toe
                    black, who hates Atlanta and longs to return to Brooklyn. To Leo
                    (who sings "How Can I Call This Place Home''), the South is a
                    foreign country where, as he notes, he doesn't fit in; he doesn't
                    swear or drawl, and even the Jews "are not like Jews." Pittu has
                    a commanding vocal style, and outdoes himself as an actor in a
                    first-act sequence where in a red-lit, dreamlike sequence he
                    energetically transforms himself into the lewd, lascivious man
                    described by the lying factory girls who have been coached in
                    their false testimony.

                    Andrea Burns, who is blessed with a soaring, operatic voice, is
                    warmly winning as Lucille, who grows from a pampered housewife,
                    dismissed and disregarded by her husband, to an admirably strong
                    woman, fighting on her husband's behalf. No longer a mousy
                    Southern flower, she thinks nothing of approaching the Georgia
                    governor, or cleverly diverting a prison guard.

                    "Parade," also is enriched by exceptional supporting work. Randy
                    Redd almost stops the show with his bluesy, boozy turn ( "Big
                    News'') as a frustrated young reporter longing to escape trivial
                    assignments and finally get a big, career-making story. In his
                    reporter role, Redd also serves admirably as "Parade's" narrator.

                    Also making a big impact is Keith Byron Kirk as the cocky, lying,
                    black ex-convict, Jim Conley. Kirk is mesmerizing both in a key
                    courtroom scene and in a dramatically orange-lit chain-gang
                    segment where he speaks boldly to the governor while at the
                    same time leading the hard-working chaingang's call and response
                    ( "Blues: Feel the Rain Fall.'')

                    Peter Samuel is commanding as the ambitious prosecutor, Hugh
                    Dorsey, while John Leslie Wolfe gliding silently in undertaker black
                    and popping up almost unexpectedly, is chilling as the fanatic,
                    racist newspaper publisher, Tom Watson.

                    Prince moves his large cast about with fluid ease. The
                    Confederate Memorial Day parade scenes -- marked by a
                    one-legged white-haired Civil War veteran waving from a float,
                    huge Confederate flags, brass instruments and a twirling baton --
                    are particularly effective, as are the courtroom scenes with an
                    imaginative, paper cut-out jury.

                    There were a few opening-night problems, notably involving
                    sound, but ultimately "Parade" is a thoroughly satisfying theatrical

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