Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Alfred Uhry
Directed by Dominic Missimi
At Cahn Auditorium
On the campus of Northwestern University
600 Emerson
Evanston, IL 

Thursday, November 18, 2004 at 8 PM
Friday, November 19, 2004 at 8 PM
Saturday, November 20, 2004 at 8PM
Sunday, November 21, 2004 at 2 PM

Parade's power blasts across Cahn Auditorium's stage

Northwestern University's Theatre, Music and Interpretation Center 
Departments, under the direction of Dominic Missimi and music direction 
from Ryan Nelson, should take an extra bow for Parade---it is a 
spectacular, heart-wrenching musical. Parade is an elegant show in the 
finest American tradition of a Showboat or a Ragtime. Parade is a major 
achievement with stunning power that will move you unlike any musical 
in recent memory. It is the American Les Miserables.

From the impressive Projection design by John Boesche, Video editing by 
Logan Kibens, set design by Scott Neale, sound by Josh Horvath and 
Lighting by Lee Keenan and choreography by Antonette Balestreri and the 
twenty-four piece orchestra conducted by Ryan Nelson, Parade looks, 
sounds and feels like a major Broadway show. Northwestern University¹s 
musicals are usually of higher quality than most professional tours 
that grave the Loop theatres. This production is so impressive that 
it¹ll amaze even the most sophisticated theatre patron.

Parade is the true story of Leo Frank (Jesse Manocherian), a Jewish man 
who was wrongly convicted of the murder of thirteen-year old Mary 
Phagan (Morgan Weed). The musical covers not only the trial, but also 
dramatizes the love story between Leo and his wife Lucille (Jessica 
Shure).  The show is basically an historical retelling of the story, 
but it also subtly examines class and race relations, prejudice, and 
the South. In the end, Leo's sentence is commuted from the death 
sentence to life imprisonment, but on the two-year anniversary of the 
little girl's death, a mob takes him from his cell and lynches him.

Composer-lyricist Brown makes an impressive Broadway debut with some 
achingly beautiful songs - "Old Red Hills of Home," a stirring anthem 
of Southern pride; and "You Don't Know This Man," Lucille's defiant 
defense of her husband. This production is filled with marvelous voices 
and rich harmonies.

Uhry's Frank is not a perfect martyr but an arrogant Atlanta newcomer 
who yearns for the "real people" of his Brooklyn youth. Another bold 
choice is to begin the evening with a noble young Rebel soldier going 
off to war - then magically transform him into a bitter, grizzled, 
one-legged veteran in the Confederate Memorial Day Parade (hence the 
show's title) 50 years later. In this single brilliant stroke, Uhry 
provides a sympathetic insight into the men who shouted for the head of 
the Yankee foreman who paid their children pennies an hour.

Thus Uhry shifts the blame off the common man and onto Tom Watson (Dan 
Kohler), the publisher of "The Jeffersonian," who incites him with such 
verbatim phrases as "perverted sodomite Jew." Uhry also includes a 
stereotypically clownish defense lawyer, a sort of Big Daddy without 
the brains.

His least credible characters are lesser villains: prosecutor Hugh 
Dorsey, who exploits the Frank case with naked political ambition; and 
Britt Craig (Devin DeSantis), reporter for the now-defunct Atlanta 
Georgian, a generic figure of journalistic sleaze who seems to arise 
from the opportunity rather than a sense of deep historical outrage.

Parade is simply too riveting in its authentic horrors and too 
intelligently told. Uhry's book has an uncanny ability to weave in and 
out of characters' heads, making fantasy coexist with reality; even the 
choreography by Antonette Balestreri enhances this effect.

In the evening's most daring sequence, as factory girls give coached 
testimony about Frank's alleged sexual advances, the repressed 
superintendent dances with them with a mad, suggestive abandon, even 
leaping up to strut across courtroom desks.

But the evening's transcendent moment has nothing to do with tragedy - 
it's about fleeting, quiet joy, as Leo and Lucille enjoy their 
long-awaited "picnic." In Brown's most soaring notes and inspired 
lyrics (fully realized by the voices of the superb Jesse Manocherian 
and Jessica Shure), the Franks come to terms with "All the Wasted Time" 
that they neglected to enjoy each other, just hours before the 
vigilantes seize him.

Parade is a somber, gripping beauty of a show; the kind musical theater 
fans will relish and wish to see more than once. Because Parade is 
ambitious and sets the story of its two central characters against a 
larger social canvas, it may take some patience from the audience.

The emotional heart of the show, what we come to care about most, is 
the relationship between Leo and wife Lucille: As Lucille fights for 
justice for her husband, she changes from a docile Southern belle to a 
figure of strength. And an arranged, somewhat distant and sterile 
marriage is transformed, husband and wife falling in love for the first 
time as a result of what they have endured in the two years following 
Mary's murder.

Parade features Jason Robert Brown's amazing assortment of ballads, 
comedy songs and anthems using a wide range of styles from period 
(early 1900's) music to ragtime to contemporary pop forming a distinct 
"southern" sound. This score was sung with emotional fervor as Adam 
Hart (Frankie Epps), Devin Desantis, as the drunken reporter lands the 
terrific songs deftly. Rich performances from Jarrod Zimmerman as the 
nasty prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, Travis Turner as Jim Conley and Michael 
Kohn as Governor Slaton enhance the production. The ensemble had a 
collective effect that drove home much of the emotions of the show.

Parade's finest moments came from Jesse Manocherian as Leo Frank. He 
sang and exuded the fear and bewilderment Frank surely felt. His songs 
hit us in the heart. Jessica Shure sang and portrayed Lucille Frank 
with an understated dignity and her powerful voice sent her songs into 
out souls.

Parade is the saddest musical ever in the tradition of a Greek tragedy. 
Parade's integrity is haunting, as it never loses its purpose or its 
focus on justice, racism, anti-Semitism as it demonstrates the 
potential of the masses to violence.

Parade is a somber gripping gorgeous show that will leave you relishing 
its power and beckoning you to see it again. All the best musicals have 
that influence. You only have four performances left.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams 
<><> for 

Chicago stage Talk Radio Show

November 13, 2004

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