Bailiwick fuels `Parade' with passion and skill
By Chris Jones
Tribune arts reporter
Published May 1, 2004

When Broadway in Chicago took over the Cadillac Palace Theatre in 2000, one of its first and most irritating acts was to cancel the Chicago engagement of the first national tour of "Parade," the weighty musical by Jason Robert Brown concerning the legal and social travails of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born, Jewish factory manager in the racially fraught Atlanta of 1913.

Those of us who admired this rich, dark, bold, tuneful and intensely complex new musical after its troubled Lincoln Center premiere thus had to schlep all the way to Green Bay to see it. With composer-lyricist Brown in the pit and most of the initial New York problems gloriously solved, the drive to Wisconsin was entirely worthwhile.

This week at the Bailiwick Arts Center -- which has never lacked ambition -- "Parade" gets its long-overdue first resident Chicago production.  Bailiwick operates on relatively small budgets and draws from a non-Equity pool. And David Zak's production is by no means flawless. The show's inherent seriousness sometimes get overwrought by cartoonish tableaux on Eric Appleton's Day-Glo set. And a folksy concept keeping the 30-strong cast often on stage comes at a price: The
townspeople and bystanders get stuck in a variety of awkward clumps.

For better or worse, Zak cannot quite resist the temptation to turn this carefully nuanced and shaded show into a broad indictment of the conservative south -- and his Confederacy-loving villains often shout and scream with too much excitement for

But for lovers of contemporary musicals who'd rather drop $30 than $80, these issues do not constitute reasons to pass
this show by.  Directed with passion and daring, it is very skillfully cast. There is a stellar little orchestra providing the musical
accompaniment. The show is capably sung across the board and, on occasion, the vocals are exceptional. And most important,
the married couple at the center of the story of a trumped-up murder case born of anti-Semitism is very well played.

In the introspective, self-tortured lead role, the young but immensely capable Nicholas Foster offers a moving and truthful
performance, deftly matched by the powerful vocals of Amy Arbizzani in the role of Mrs. Frank. When one adds a delightfully cynical piece of work from the terrific Sean Reid as a newsman who sees everyone's hypocrisy except his own, that's a surfeit of stellar work.

Brown made few concessions to commercial viability. But "Parade" is a far better and far more important show than
many people realize. The admirable Bailiwick version makes that perfectly clear.


When: Through May 29
Where: Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Tickets: $25-$30 at 773-883-1090
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

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