(Ordway Theater (St. Paul, Minn.); 1,890 seats; $55 top)
An Atlanta's Theater of the Stars presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Alfred Uhry, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Directed by Harold Prince.
Leo Frank - David Pittu
Lucille Frank - Andrea Burns
Mrs. Phagan - Adinah Alexander
Newt Lee - Ray Aranha
Mary Phagan - Kirsten Bowden
Young Solider - Jeff Edgerton
Judge Roan - Donald Grody
Governor Slayton - Rick Hilsabeck
Frankie Epps - Daniel Frank Kelley
Jim Conley - Keith Byron Kirk
Britt Craig - Randy Redd
Hugh Dorsey - Peter Samuel
Luther Rosser - David Vosburgh
Tom Watson - John Leslie Wolfe
By CHRIS JONES
Most composers of Broadway musicals are not be found in a St. Paul
orchestra pit on a Tuesday night conducting a hinterlands tour of
their own work. But for Jason Robert Brown, Harold Prince and the
rest of the Gotham creatives still very much involved in "Parade,"
this road retread of the critically maligned tuner has the air of a
personal quest for artistic vindication. The show is a decidedly dark
one compared to most road fare, and flaws certainly remain. But
there's no disputing the high quality of Prince's compelling, moving
and surprisingly expansive touring production. It is far superior to
the original Lincoln Center Theater effort.
Both the material and Prince's direction of it work better in a traditional
proscenium setting. The story seems much less bombastic when it's not
presented right in an audience's face. Complex numbers like "The Factory
Girls/Come Up to My Office" seemed muddled in New York but gain
focus here. And Prince's staging no longer seems so esoteric now that
traditional wings and backdrops can provide an organizational and
aesthetic frame (even the bizarre Memorial Day procession finally makes
sense here). Had "Parade" gone the traditional proscenium route from the
start, history might have been much kinder to this bold but uneven show.
Brown's music holds up very well on another live hearing. Splendid
ballads like "You Don't Know This Man" are already widely admired,
but in the hands of the terrific Keith Byron Kirk, bold numbers like "Feel
the Rain Fall" reveal themselves as being underappreciated.
Some of the wrong-headed decisions still plague the show. Sticking a
huge tree in the middle of the stage always was a dumb idea. Aside from
its depressing shadow, the image removes most of the dramatic tension
from the piece. Sure, most of the audience knows that suspected
murderer and Jewish outsider Leo Frank is headed for a lynching. But it
would be nice to suspend our disbelief for a while. The tree, sadly, lives
on here and wreaks its damage.
There has also been no toning down of the fundamentalist character of
Tom Watson, a melodramatic villain whose one-dimensional nature is in
contrast with the ambiguous, realistic depictions of the other characters.
The other major problem with "Parade" is its muddled opening. It takes
the audience 20 minutes to grasp the point of the action -- by which time
a good proportion of them are lost for good. It's not until the terrific
Daniel Frank Kelley (as the young murder victim's boyfriend) hits the
audience between the eyes in "There Is a Fountain/It Don't Make No
Sense" that the show suddenly gains enough emotional and melodic heft
for the viewer to invest in the proceedings.
From that point on in this improved production, the show
flows beautifully. Several members of the original cast are in supporting
roles, but the piece benefits greatly from two strong new leads. Unafraid
to deal with the antihero's less attractive side, David Pittu improves the
difficult character of
Frank by making bold and specific choices. As a result, his tragic stature
builds. And Andrea Burns also fleshes out Lucille Frank into a more
empathetic figure. The palpable commitment and emotion onstage was not
lost on the appreciative Minnesota audience.
Barring miracles, this will probably be the definitive production of
"Parade." While this piece will likely have a life in regional legit, that
will surely involve
reduced orchestrations and a much smaller cast. With a cast of 36 and
first-rate production values, Atlanta's Theater of the Stars and its investors
have done this musical proud. Fans of the work -- and it deserves its
following -- would be well advised to take a look.
Choreography, Patricia Birch. Sets, Riccardo Hernandez; costumes, Judith Dolan; lighting, Howell
Brinkley; sound, Duncan Edwards; musical director, Brown; orchestrations, Don Sebesky. Opened
Aug. 1, 2000. Reviewed Aug. 8. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.
With: Anne Allgood, Mimi Bessette, Justin Bohon, Elizabeth Brownlee, Diana Blackstone, David
Coolidge, David Dannehl, Sandra Denise, Peter Flynn, Carla J. Hargrove, Tim Howard, Siri
Howard, Jamie Jonsson, Raissa Katona, Emily Klein, C. Mingo Long, Corey Reynolds, Greg
Roderick, Tim, Salamandyk, Natasha Yvette Williams. Musical numbers: "The Old Red Hills of
Home," "The Dream of Atlanta," "How Can I Call This Home," "The Picture Show," "I Am Trying to
Remember," "Big News!," "There Is a Fountain/It Don't Make Sense," "Watson's Lullaby,"
"Somethin' Ain't Right," "Real Big News," "You Don't Know This Man," "It Is Time Now," "Twenty
Miles From Marietta," "The Factory Girls/Come Up to My Office," "My Child Will Forgive Me,"
"That's What He Said," "It's Hard to Speak My Heart," "A Rumblin' and a Rollin'," "Do It Alone,"
"Pretty Music," "Letter to the Governor," "This Is Not Over Yet," "Feel the Rain Fall," "Where Will
You Stand When the Flood Comes," "All the Wasted Time," "Finale."
Back to The Old Red Hills of HOME