PARADE TheatreLoft/ART of WNY
Mar 28, 2019, 11:25
Through April 13
PARADE TheatreLoft/ART of WNY
For the Georgia prosecutor, it was a difficult choice, blame yet another Black man for a sensational murder or a Jew.
In the Georgia of 1913, that was a difficult choice as the White power structure consolidates the power of Jim Crow.
“Parade” is the drama of the Leo Frank case, a symbol of all that was wrong in the state more than a century ago.
It’s a great basis for a musical because it’s such a tale of good and evil, made possible by the players of the day.
Book writer and Georgia native Alfred Uhry had personal ties to the story and a history of plays about his home state, most notably “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Jason Robert Brown did the music and lyrics.
Frank was the manager of a pencil factory where a young, White, female employee was found murdered.
The musical portrays the local power structure deciding to convict Frank to settle down the population and prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Nicholas Lama) is told to get it done and he does.
He uses perjury on a grand scale to convict Frank and send him to death row.
As the story goes along, the show becomes more of a developing love story of Leo Frank (Jordan Levin) and wife Lucille Frank (Melissa Levin), as the tale moves toward doom.
It’s a great story and has great potential.
That potential doesn’t work here because of the limitations of TheatreLoft and its acoustic problems.
It’s not because there is a large band or anything like that since conductor Donald Jenczka is only working with four others but in the envelope of the theater it’s enough for the well-done music to overwhelm the songs and much of the script.
Overcoming the problem is Brandon Williamson as Jim Conley, the pencil factory worker who probably committed the murder, and here a performer who functions as a Wagnerian heldentenor heard above the music, particularly in “Blues: Feel the Rain Fall.”
To the audience, the plot to frame Frank and then to convict him with perjured testimony is quite clear, as is the later section where dancin’ fool Governor Slaton (Tim Goehrig) essentially re-tries the case and interviews witnesses and realizes what happened.
He winds up as former governor and the prosecutor winds up in the governor’s office.
The death sentence is changed to life in prison and the Franks begin to think the nightmare might end, that if a death penalty is removed because the evidence is so tainted, the overall conviction might be.
The power structure flexes its muscles with the production number “Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?”
The face masks come out, although they aren’t Klan costumes but the same principle.
Frank is taken out of prison by the masked vigilantes and taken to his execution and hung, after singing “Sh’ma,” as he prepares to die.
Then, the story returns to another Confederate Memorial Day, celebrating the Lost Cause.
That includes Old Soldier (Matthew LaChiusa), one of the few remaining Confederate veterans.
The real story is somewhat different in major details but this script is true to the overall history of the Frank case.
Director Matthew Refermat is working with some strong performances, Jordan Levin and Melissa Levin, Williamson, Lama and Chris Cummings as defense lawyer Ivey.
He’s working on LaChiusa’s minimalist set with Carly Luksch’s swirling choreography.
There are problems on “Parade.”
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