Updated: 8/14/00
(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."

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