Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Parade "

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


book by Alfred Uhry
music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
directed by Paul Daigneault
choreography by David Connolly
musical direction by José Delgado

Young Confederate Soldier … Austin Lesch
Aide … Bryce Chaddick
Assistant … Katrina Shinay
Old Confederate Soldier … Paul D. Farwell
Lucille Frank … Bridget Beirne
Leo Frank … Brendhan McNab
Hugh Dorsey … David Krinitt
Gov. John Slaton … Terrence O’Malley
Sally Slaton … Kristen Sweeney
Frankie Epps … Austin Lesch
Mary Phagan … Felicia Blum
Iola Stover … Tess Primack
Jim Conley … Edward M. Barker
Det. Starnes … Bob De Vivo
Officer Ivey … A. John Porcaro
Newt Lee … Nicholas Ryan Rowe
Rookie Policeman … Andrew Durand
Mrs. Phagan … Kerry A. Dowling
Lizzie Phagan … Erin Tchoukaleff
Floyd MacDaniel … Gerald Slattery
Britt Craig … Timothy John Smith
Tom Watson … Brett Cramp
Riley … Kenneth Harmon
Luther Rosser … Gerald Slattery
Fiddlin’ John … Andrew Durand
Judge Roan … Paul D. Farwell
Nurse … Ellen Peterson
Monteen … Lauren Wood
Essie … Alisa Walker
Chain Gang … Jordan Fife Hunt; Kenneth Harmon; Nicolas Ryan Rowe
Mr. Peavy … Bryce Chaddick

Shavanna Calder; Bryce Chaddick; Bob De Vivo; Andrew Durand;
Paul D. Farwell; Kenneth Harmon; Jordan Fife Hunt; Ellen Peterson;
A. John Porcaro; Nicholas Ryan Rowe; Katrina Shinay; Erin Sjostrom;
Erin Tchoukaleff; Matthew Thompson

Conductor … José Delgado
Keyboard … Paul S. Katz
Drums; Percussion … Adam Nazro
Violin; Viola … Julie Metcalf
Guitar; Banjo … Dan Crosby
Reed 1 … Ray Taranto
Reed 2 … Wendy Macdonald
Trumpet … Paul Perfetti
Trombone … Anthony Hudson

Substitute Musicians:
Don Boroson; Jeff Leonard; Zachary Chadwick; Rob LePage; Jeri Sykes

for Leo Frank … Bob De Vivo
for Lucille Frank … Kristen Sweeney
for Mrs. Phagan … Ellen Peterson

The problem with New Musicals --- apart from their being tuneless and for steering a genre that once celebrated the Life Force into darker and darker waters --- is that there is far too much music in them. A current example is PARADE at the SpeakEasy Stage: Alfred Uhry, writer of two celebrated plays about the Jewish Experience in the American South, tells the real-life story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn Jew living in post-Civil War Georgia, accused of murdering a young girl who worked in his factory; Mr. Frank was tried, sentenced and lynched though his fate was apparently based on anti-Semitism, media hype and political strings being pulled. Perhaps I should say that Mr. Uhry tried to tell Mr. Frank’s story for his libretto constitutes but a quarter of PARADE’s running time; the rest is composed by Jason Robert Brown in that sung-through way that was once a novelty but is now a commonplace and his score is more noisy than passionate, more busy than memorable. Song and dance, when used well --- and appropriately --- can be an invaluable shortcut in illuminating human nature compared to spoken drama which takes longer; when overused, stage music --- being stylized expression --- leads to mere skating over surfaces and PARADE falls into this New Musical trap: Leo Frank is a one-note kvetch, more alienating than alienated (he gains a second note after having sex in prison --- with his wife, of course); the stock townspeople alternate between folksiness and vengeance (think “Southern”) and there are far too many turns coming at you, causing Mr. Frank’s reappearances to have “meanwhile” hanging over them. The spoken scenes involving Mr. Frank, his wife Lucille (a Southern Jew who sees herself as a Georgian, first) and a jolly hick-lawyer plead demonstrate that PARADE would have been better off as a straight play, just as direct but more dimensional --- imagine the power of the trial scenes, alone, if they WEREN’T sung --- and how ironic that Mr. Uhry received a Tony Award for his contribution.

Paul Daigneault and David Connolly have given PARADE a lovely spin, though, especially in their staging of the title event and how encouraging to see so many of today’s and tomorrow’s notables blending into a well-sung ensemble. Brendan McNab is clearly being groomed as Boston’s other musical leading man and he has good things going for him: looks that can turn handsome or tortured or menacing, as needed, and a lyric baritone that catches the emotions embedded in a complex score (in a ludicrous moment, Leo Frank must portray a fantasized lounge lizard --- to Mr. McNab’s credit, he croons quite nicely); let his gentlemanly Dr. Hall in the Lyric’s 1776 serve as a reminder that Mr. McNab’s urbane side is also compelling…Boston, do handle him well. Timothy John Smith’s two-faced reporter begins as a show-stopping delight but soon dwindles into a reprise; I’ve not seen Bridget Beirne since THE WILD PARTY and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, several seasons ago --- now she is back, slimmer and with a radiant intensity that turns all of Lucille Frank’s lyrics into heightened speech. Again and again, Ms. Beirne astonishes in her insights and if her rocking anguish threatens to upstage Mr. McNab in the courtroom, blame it on her immersion in the role --- but thank her, also, for being friend as well as foil to Mr. McNab’s developing artistry.

"Parade" (12 May - 16 June)
Boston Center for the Performing Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide