Synopsis: Marietta, Georgia, 1913. 13-year-old Mary Phagan is found dead in the basement of a pencil factory, and Leo Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the factory, is wrongfully accused of committing the crime.
Based on the tragic real-life story of Leo Frank, this latest adaptation transferred from the City Center’s Encores! series explores Jason Robert Brown’s work in a concert-style production. Taking place in 1913, we follow the Frank family as they navigate the geopolitical implications of what it means to be a Jewish man accused of murder in southern Georgia during the re-emergence of the KKK. Jason Robert Brown’s lush score powerfully captures the emotion of not only the Frank family but the town ready to turn on him, showcasing through the song the true frenzy this case had on the town of Marietta, GA.
Leo Frank, portrayed by Ben Platt, spends most of the show begging the cast to believe his innocence. Mr. Plat’s voice expertly soared throughout the show, ringing with authenticity and the range of emotions needed for the role. However, Lucille Frank, portrayed by Micaela Diamond, was the true heartbreak in the show. Ms. Diamond’s vocal prowess was awe-inspiring and powerful. She carried most of the emotional burden as the embattled wife faced public scrutiny and frustrations from her husband as she fights to get him free. Ms. Diamond’s acting was unmatched as she acted in circles around the rest of the cast. Finally, Alex Joseph Grayson’s portrayal of Jim Conley was powerfully carried and acted. His ability to capture the weight of the character's motivation and deliver some of the best vocals truly captured the audience's attention.
Helming this massive production were director Michael Arden and musical director Tom Murray. Mr. Murray’s greatest strength in this production was his ability to create a strong wall of sound with large chorus numbers. Feeling lush and full, they captured the mob mentality feel they were intended for with that sinister, yet upbeat Dixie feel. Where Mr. Murray sometimes fell a bit short was at times the diction could become muddled while hearing the wall of sound, which might be more of a sound mixing issue than anything Mr. Murray could control.
Mr. Tom Arden as director had the tough job of capturing the essence of the story in a concert version. Mr. Arden manages with great strength to steer this story in a powerful way that put forth the story as opposed to the gimmicks. A few of the moments directed however did cheapen the story a bit as they came across as too literal. One of the prime examples of this was the decision to have Mary Phagan descend twice from the skies on a swing, a la Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime. However, the show was so powerfully staged that it didn’t detract more than a brief speed bump toward the narrative propelling forward.
Overall, Parade is a show that should be seen every time it is playing nearby. The story is still relevant today and a powerful exploration of how marginalized groups can be impacted by the majority. This particular portrayal being stripped down to its bare essentials helped make this piece more focused and clean to help the audience understand what was going on while also trying it back to the historical tragedy.
This revival of Parade earns itself a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Follow our Entertainment Pundit: