By Alice T. Carter
From the TRIBUNE-REVIEW
There's a sort of bittersweet symmetry in the
idea that a musical about a man who was
denied justice was also unjustly treated.
A touring production of "Parade" arrives in
town Tuesday night to close the Pittsburgh
Civic Light Opera's 2000 season.
It's a dark but compelling story about Leo
Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew living in Atlanta
in 1913 who was falsely accused of
murdering a young girl who worked in his
factory. Railroaded through a trial on largely
circumstantial evidence, he was found guilty
and sentenced to hang. When the governor
commuted his death sentence to life in
prison, an enraged mob of vigilantes
dragged him from prison in the middle of the
night and lynched him.
Alfred Uhry's script won the 1999 Tony for
best book of a musical and Jason Robert
Brown's music and lyrics took home that
season's Tony for best original score.
Those awards were a poignant triumph for the show's creative
team, which included
its co-conceiver and director, Harold Prince, and choreographer Patricia Birch.
"Parade" already had been closed for months, after only 85 performances,
many saw as an additional casualty of the imploding financial empire of producer
Garth Drabinsky and the Canadian production company Livent. There also was a
round of negative reviews.
"We had such a terrible time with the Livent disaster," Prince
says. "Our producers
went bankrupt on the front page of the New York Times. ... They defaulted on many of
their debts. They left Lincoln Center (who would have moved the show to another
theater) holding the bag. They didn't pay their share of the advertising.
"It was a show I really love that got mistreated," Prince says.
"I said when the show
closed, we will see this show again. We will see this show in New York again ... and
it will have a life. I know that about shows. I've had shows that had rocky initial lives,
including `West Side Story.' ''
Five months later, when Uhry accepted the Tony for best book,
he held his award
aloft and, taking a line out of his play, vowed "This is not over yet."
Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, Christopher Manos, producer of the
Theatre of the Stars,
was breathing a sigh of relief because the show had not won the season's Tony for
If that had happened, he knew some other, more powerful producer
would have been
interested in optioning it for a national tour.
He had seen it in Manhattan before it closed and thought it was
a natural project for
his theater. Manos immediately began to put together a plan to revive "Parade" and
send it out as a touring production.
"I went to the creative team and they were thrilled," he recalls.
"We're having to
rethink how to do revivals with nothing new for balance coming out of Broadway."
Prince, Uhry, Brown and Birch not only wanted to let Manos produce
it, they were
willing to get it in shape with revisions and to work on it in Atlanta under conditions
somewhat reduced from what they were used to with Broadway productions.
Manos got busy calling producers he knew, including the Civic
Light Opera's Van
Kaplan. In less than 2 ½ weeks he had put together a 16-week, 10-city tour that
would allow him to proceed.
Prince re-directed the show to fit on a proscenium stage, moved
a musical number,
and cut 12 minutes out of the production. "That's always easy to do when you come
back to a show," Prince says. "The changes are for the good."
For the new production, Prince hired David Pittu to play Leo
Frank and Andrea Burns
for the part of Frank's wife, Lucile. "It's a new company, a younger company in years
... that gives it more buoyancy, no question," Prince says. "But then I've given it more
buoyancy ... the whole thing bubbles more. There's oh-so-much more laughter than
there was at Lincoln Center. ... It's very funny now when you want it to be, and then
the web tightens."
When the revised "Parade" opened in Atlanta in June, audiences
gave it a standing
ovation despite the story being a touchy subject for many longtime residents.
And why not, Manos says.
"It has a beautiful score, one of the finest of recent times
by a big new person, and the
quintessential director, Harold Prince, who was here all the time. It's the continuation
of that viewing of seriouso-type themes in musical theater form rather than going to
Manos says the show has been doing about as well at the box office
as he and
presenters in other cities predicted. "It probably did better than I expected."
But money isn't what matters most to Manos. "This is what we're
here for: to do work
we think is important and get it out there where people will see it."
Back to The Old Red Hills of HOME