review by: Jared Harrison
I have seen a lot of musicals in my time, but I’ll be honest and say that there are a select few I had yet to see. Chief among them was Parade, which I presumed would be filled with grand, carefree, lollygagging tunes. Ha! After finally seeing the Ford’s Theater production of Parade, I can confirm that it was indeed grand, but hardly carefree.
A collaboration with the Theater J and the Lincoln Legacy Project, Parade’s content is often tough to stomach, but is incredibly moving and relevant to broader discussions around race, religion and prejudice. Set in 1913 Atlanta, this show is adapted from a true story about Leo Frank, a wealthy, Jewish factory manager falsely accused of murdering a young female employee. Frank’s character, played brilliantly by the Tony-nominated Euan Morton, is the victim of a cultural landscape that allowed him to be the scapegoat for this crime, exposing tensions between the working and elite classes, whites and blacks, and Jews and gentiles.
The show isn’t all an AP U.S. history lesson, though. Frank’s wife, played by Jenny Fellner, crusades to get her husband’s sentence commuted, creating a beautiful and timeless love story. Morton and Fellner are definitely the anchors of the performance, and Morton’s previous Tony nom for Taboo is no wonder given his soaring tenor and deep character development in Parade.
The weight of the plot is lightened by the performance of Kevin McAllister in his portrayal of Jim Conley, a key witness in Frank’s trial. Although his character is ultimately responsible for Frank’s sentence, which demonstrates the major race and class division of the time and place, it’s McAllister’s performance that brings depth and flavor to the show. His presence is effortlessly breezy and soulful.
Matthew John Kacergis opens the performance with a bright and brassy version of the show’s anthem “Red Hills of Home.” And like other fresh-faced, three-named stage actors before him, girls (and boys) will be knocking down his door in no time.
Props to the amazing stage, lighting and costume designs. The company continues to demonstrate thoughtful creativity in their simple, but multi faceted and effective set design. And the linen morning coat made me (almost) wish I were a turn-of-the-century Southerner.
With everything we read on the news about hate and bigotry in the world, Parade presents an important example of how flowing thoughtlessly in a crowd can really be problematic. So go for a great history lesson and a fab love story. But definitely go before October 30, or this Parade will pass you by!