Parade

Parade

Parade By Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Kate Ingram
Starring Yaniv Zarif, Madison Stratton, and Brendon Rogers
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando, FL

This is a big, meaty, Important Play that explores racism, anti-Semitism, and the dark side of Southern hospitality. It’s also a Broadway-Class musical with over two dozen actors, a two and a half hour run time and enough set pieces the size of Manhattan condos to stuff a Playbill. In other words, this is not a musical for the faint of heart. But it’s also the most amazing thing UCF has ever pulled off.

In 1913 Atlanta, the Civil War still stings, and damaged veterans still come out for the Civil War Memorial Day parade. But Atlanta changed, expanding from a railroad junction to a major manufacturing center. Money and management flows from New York, and just as Appomattox hurt, so does the idea that Yankees and Jews could extract wealth from a South still mourning for its static, comfortable past. It’s time for someone to take a fall, and miserable Leo Frank (Zarif) was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather than wave a flag and eat a picnic lunch in Piedmont Park, Leo went in to work, and when the body of 13 year old Mary Phagan (Ericka Lyon) appeared in his factory basement, only he and black watchman Newt Lee (Michael Baugh) were considered as suspects. Hoping to prop up politically weak governor Jack Slaton (Kraig Kelsey), crooked District Attorney Hugh Dorsey (Michael Petty) went after Leo, reasoning that hanging another Black man wouldn’t have the impact of nailing a Yankee. It took an hour of trumped up charges to put Leo on death row, and only the hard work of his wife Lucille (Stratton) kept him from an official hanging. It was the lynch mob that strung him up – another fine old tradition of gentility, right along with chain gangs and duels.

The person who gets of easiest in this show is the hard drinking reporter Britt Craig (Brendan Rogers). He helps fan the flames of hate, having little else to report, and provides most of the comic relief in the show with his number “Big News”. Both Leo and Lucille sound equally great, her with “You Don’t Know This Man” and the two together in “This is Not Over Yet.” The supporting cast features more quality singing, including Michael Baugh’s rumbling baritone and Mrs. Phagan (Megan Wiley) with her lovely “My Child Will Forgive Me.” But the most amazing number was “Feel The Rain Fall” with Jim Conely (Steven Gatewood). Set and lighting designer Joseph Rusnock’s silhouettes of the chain gain back lit with a blood red flood and singing along to the blows of their sledge hammers still sticks in my mind.

While there aren’t many memorable melodies, this show tackles difficult and dangerous material with a deft hand. Because this is an Important Play, the company has taken the unusual step of creating a separate resource page with links to history and background material for the show. This is a show that stuns in its scope and execution, and is unlikely to appear anytime soon. Catch it while you can.

For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit
http://www.theatre.ucf.edu

For more information on Parade and its background, please visit http://www.ucfparade.com

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