It’s hard to sum up the emotional rollercoaster that is Jason Robert Brown’s Parade. The show has you laughing the one moment and leaves you in deep shock just a minute later. I still regret missing out on the Donmar Warehouse production a few years ago so when I heard that the Southwark Playhouse was putting on Parade I jumped at the chance.
And yes, the fact that the lovely Simon Bailey was to be in it also helped with the decision to book.The Vault – as the venue is called – is quite an unusual yet interesting performing space. You are literally in a tunnel with the audience being lined up in 4 rows on either side of it and the stage being in the middle (like a walkway). I’d never seen anything like it before but really enjoyed the way the show was staged.
For everyone that doesn’t know Parade (but seriously, where have you been all your life? It’s a masterpiece!), the show tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager from Brroklyn, who is accused of the rape and murder of 13 year old employee Mary Phagan and ends up being lynched by a mob. Parade shows a real-life miscarriage of justice and paints a disturbing picture of intolerance and corruption.
The cast were amazing and I mean all of them. There wasn’t a weak link and I was once again reminded that I need to go and see more fringe theatre. The quality you get to see in fringe shows is amazing and something several West End shows definitely lack. Special mention for Alastair Brookshaw who’s portrayal of Leo Frank left me with tears in my eyes. The same applies to Laura Pitt-Pulford who gave a stunning performance as Leo’s wife Lucille. Samuel J Weir who has just graduated from Arts Ed in July 2011 is definitely someone to watch out for in the future. Amazing vocals and a really strong performance as Young Soldier / Frankie Epps. Marc Inscoe who I had last seen in Priscilla – Queen of the desert really impressed me with his gripping portrayal of the prosecutor Hugh Dorsey.
Kelly Agbowu: Essie
Simon Bailey: Off. Starnes / Tom Watson
Jessica Bastick-Vines: Lila / Mary Phagan
Alastair Brookshaw: Leo Frank
Michael Cotton: Off. Ivey / Luther Rosser
Terry Doe: Newt Lee / Jim Conley / Riley
Natalie Green: Monteen
David Haydn: Governor Slaton / Britt Craig / Mr. Peavey
Marc Inscoe: Hugh Dorsey
Abiona Omanua: Minnie McKnight / Angela
Laura Pitt-Pulford: Lucille Frank
Philip Rham: Old Soldier / Judge Roan
Samantha Seager: Mrs. Phagan / Sally Slaton
Victoria Serra: Iola Stover
Samuel J Weir: Young Soldier / Frankie Epps
I do admit I was quite shocked by the really disturbing banner you got to see in the end. Since the show has finished it’s run I’m not spoiling anything by saying it was a picture of the real Leo Frank – hanged. It worked well, I can say that. But personally I found it hard to impossible to look at the picture that was left hanging until the end of the show which ment I had to walk past it when leaving the auditorium.
I generally love Jason Robert Brown’s work. Seeing Songs for a new world in a tiny space on a ship in Hamburg still is one of the highlights of my theatre life. And Parade definitely is a show every supporter of the arts needs to watch at least once. It’s moving, it has a brilliant score and it has meaning which is something you don’t get in many of the popular musicals these days.
So finally, I’d like to thank the whole cast for such an outstanding performance of a brilliant piece of musical theatre. Everyone obviously put their heart and soul into this show and it was a real honour to witness musical theatre at its best. Thank you!