Alfred Uhry’s “Parade,” onstage now as part of Theatre Raleigh’s Hot Summer Nights, tells the story of how one man’s life changed on Confederate Memorial Day in 1913. That man is Leo Frank (Zachary Prince), the Jewish supervisor of a pencil factory who feels out of place in very-Southern Marietta, Georgia.
In the early scenes, the audience is introduced to Frank and his spunky wife, Lucille (Lauren Kennedy) and the many townspeople whom Leo feels so very distanced from. Prince’s delivery of “How Can I Call this Home?” is powerful and energetic. Juxtaposed with scenes of the reveling townspeople, the number effectively serves to establish Frank as a loner and an outsider. In other words, he is a prime target for what happens next- an accusation that he has murdered a young girl who works in his factory.
What starts as a crazy accusation quickly spirals out of control as the townspeople, portrayed by a constantly moving and changing ensemble cast, make up false stories about Frank and paint him as a villain. The parade scene of earlier serves as a nice comparison to the “parade” that becomes Frank’s life- a parade of blame, of false tales, and the circus drama that is his courtroom trial.
Throughout, Eric Woodall’s direction proves flawless. The scenes flow smoothly from one to the next, keeping audiences rapt. And, despite the somber nature of the story, the small bits of relief-humor in Uhry’s script come out loud and clear, allowing audiences to be involved without feeling weighed-down. The “weighing down” is saved for the end, when viewers must go home and process everything they have just watched unfold.
Subtle yet powerful lighting choices by Chris Bernier balance Woodall’s careful direction and Sherry Lee Allen’s beautiful choreography, which includes a haunting mimic of the “sworn oath” motion the factory girls make in court before spewing their lies about Leo. In fact, all of the details in this show are painstakingly executed, right down to LeGrande Smith’s period-perfect costumes. Smith incorporates Kentucky bow ties, puffed sleeves, and all the other fashions of the era, making the story seem all the more real and present.
The cast itself is full of standouts. In fact, there’s not a bad casting choice in the bunch. Each member of the ensemble cast juggles multiple roles with ease, while Kennedy and Prince shine in their respective starring roles. Prince moves smoothly from one believable emotion to the next, while Kennedy’s powerhouse voice and bubbly-yet-strong delivery engrain her character into the audience’s heart.
The powerful two-act show eventually gives way to a somber ending, one that gives audiences much to think about. Just like a parade that comes to town and entertains viewers for a short while, this production leaves its remains and its memory behind long after the spectacle is over.
Theatre Raleigh presents PARADE at 8 p.m. July 11, 2 and 8 p.m. July 12, 3 p.m. July 13, 8 p.m. July 16-18, 2 and 8 p.m. July 19, 3 p.m. July 20, 8 p.m. July 23-25, 2 and 8 p.m. July 26, and 3 p.m. July 27 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $27 ($25 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-480-5166.
SHOW: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/parade/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/664174666999468/.
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.
Parade (1998 Broadway and 2007 West End musical): http://jasonrobertbrown.com/projects/parade/ (Jason Robert Brown’s website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=6926 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parade_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Jason Robert Brown (music and lyrics): http://jasonrobertbrown.com/ (official website), https://twitter.com/MrJasonRBrown (Twitter page), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=11446 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Robert_Brown (Wikipedia).
Alfred Uhry (book): http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/alfred-uhry-b-1936 (New Georgia Encyclopedia), http://thefsw.org/page/members/elected-members/alfred-uhry (Fellowship of Southern Writers profile), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=4051 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Uhry (Wikipedia).
Eric Woodall (, NY director): http://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Eric-Woodall/ (BroadwayWorld.com bio) and https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).
Zachary Prince (Brooklyn, NY actor): http://www.zacharyprince.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/zachary.prince (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/zacharyprince (Twitter page).
Lauren Kennedy (New York, NY actress): http://www.laurenkennedy.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/slaurenkennedy (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/slaurenkennedy (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Kennedy (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.