I attended Parade at London Theatre Workshop on Wednesday 2nd September. I should probably begin with a disclaimer – This is a musical I am extremely familiar with and love. This is the 5th production I have seen of this show. Previous productions I have seen of this show range from the original London production at the Domnar to a very good amateur version (of which you can read the review here). That being said I went to see this production with several people who had not seen the piece before.
For those of you that don’t know the musical it tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man living in Southern America just after the turn of the centaury. Leo Frank is accused of killing one of his factory workers, young Mary Phagan. During the show we see his trial where he is found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, his wife’s relentless work to turn over the conviction and in turn the dynamics between various members of the Atlanta community.
The show contains many characters but this cast of 13 double up many of the parts. Sometimes I found this lead to confusion as to who they were supposed to be at the time; maybe a more distinctive costume change could have helped? However despite the small cast the sound they made was phenomenal. Parade is full of rich harmonies and these were all present and the ensemble singing caused the hair on my arms to stand on end at times.
The pivotal character of Leo Frank was played by Ross Barnes. He portrayed Leo’s quirkiness perfectly and his voice was more than strong enough to carry the numerous and emotionally ranging songs that Leo has. My only criticism of Ross is that I would have liked to have seen Leo as less aggressive and shouty in act 1 and more introverted with his anger. Lucille, Leo Frank’s wife, was played by Lilly de-la-Haye. She was another joy to watch and her reaction to what was happening on stage to Leo was pitched just right. There were some parts when I would have liked her to sing out a bit more, only because when she really let her voice go you really saw what a powerhouse of a voice she had.
One of the other standout performances for me was from Nazerene Williams who played both Minnie, the Frank’s servant and Angela who opens the 2nd act. Nazerene was not only a beautiful dancer but contrasted the meek Minnie with a brilliantly sassy Angela resulting in one of my favourite performances of ‘Rumblin’ and A Rollin’ that I have seen.
Parade can be a difficult show to stage with scenes often shifting from one location to another frequently. This production was slightly too fond of the blackout and I would have liked to have seen more use of pools of light or just parts of the stage in order to avoid this and keep the action flowing. Despite this the action did not drag at all and the emotion building throughout, leaving myself (and the rest of the audience) too enthralled to clap. The choreography was very nicely done and stylised to avoid the tone of the show becoming too light.
I often think a good test of a show you know well is if it can still move you and by the end of the production I was wiping away the tears. My friends who have never seen the show before described it as ‘fabulous,’ ‘stunning’ and ‘absolutely adored it!!’ From someone who has loved this show for more than 10 years I therefore must give a token of thanks to London Theatre Workshop for helping spread the love of this show. To say you did the show justice would be putting it lightly.
The show is on until the 13th September and tickets can be purchased here.