Theater Review: PARADE (Chance Theater)

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by Tony Frankel on July 26, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


The emotionally pile-driving Parade by bookwriter Alfred Uhry and composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown reprises an ugly and evergreen tragedy. Their driven musical chronicles the reflexive racism that, a century ago, doomed a suspect stranger, Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew in 1914 Atlanta. Here the bigotry is anti-Semitism, a xenophobia that ironically unites blacks and whites in a feeding frenzy. The title sardonically refers to the Memorial Day Parade that was backdrop to a civic disgrace fueled by fear, ignorance and scapegoating. If it sounds depressing it’s not, especially given Chance Theater’s terrific revival, bolstered by Kari Hayter’s choreographically brilliant direction, and a central performance by the astounding Allen Everman, a doppelganger to the real-lfe Frank; Everman is hands down one of the best fits of actor to role that I have ever seen.

Reluctantly journeying to Georgia to manage a pencil firm, detesting the crackers who surround him, Frank is immediately accused of rape and murder when the body of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan (Gabrielle Adner) is found on this horror-filled holiday. The case against him is circumstantial at best—but it’s much stronger against Jim Conley (a powerful Robert Collins), the plant’s black janitor whose perjury will help to convict Frank. Of course, prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (a slimy Chris Kerrigan) could indict the real killer. But that’s too easy: He has bigger fish to fry. Hanging an innocent Jew will garner more publicity than convicting a guilty black man—a virtual cake walk in Jim Crow Georgia.

Spurred on by a vitriolic, circulation-boosting newspaper campaign and by fundamentalist Christians reviling this “Christ killer,” Dorsey suborns witness testimony, turning the trial into a Kafkaesque kangaroo court. Frank, whose disdain for the proceedings is taken as proof of guilt, receives no palpable defense. Incredibly, according to Georgia law, this sacrificial innocent is denied the right to defend himself, other than to make an impassioned plea.

Condemning the lone victim is a ton of toxic testimony—lies from Mary’s supposed boyfriend Frankie (an immensely likeable Dillon Klena), tearful accusations by her mother (the wonderfully controlled Laura M. Hathaway), and prevarications from the shop girls (Madeline Ellingson, Alissa Finn, Madison Miller) about Leo’s craving for Christian virgins. Leo gets conditional support from his frightened but stalwart wife Lucille (Erica Schaeffer), a Southerner who suddenly sees the darkness of Dixie, and from Governor John Slaton (Tucker Boyes), uncomfortable with the trial’s rush to judgment and the torrent of national criticism triggered by a sanctioned hate crime.

Inspired by a score that ranges from soaring anthems (“The Dream of Atlanta”) to ragtime romps (“Pretty Music”), Robyn Manion’s musical direction does rich justice to Brown’s supple songs. Chance’s attractive, 18-member mainly non-Equity ensemble honors every number with full-throated ardor and combustible conviction.

photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Chance Theater
5522 E. La Palma in Anaheim
ends on July 30, 2017 EXTENDED to August 13, 2017
for tickets, call 888.455.4212 or visit Chance

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

James Hoyt-McDaniels July 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm

If you saw the revival at the Mark Taper Forum a few years ago, how did this compare?


Tony Frankel July 28, 2017 at 12:47 am

I did, and this is wholly different. The Chance was staged in the style of 70’s theatre — a wooden raked stage and a lot of chairs. This one had more of an immediacy and a kind of energetic innocence — and a larger ensemble. The Taper was very scaled back. It’s apples and oranges, but I liked Allen Everman at the Chance much more than the Taper’s T.R. Knight.


Tingba Muhammad September 6, 2017 at 7:34 am

Dear Mr. Frankel,

This language in your Parade “review” is so incredibly racist and vicious and proves only that your ignorance of history and appetite for racist propaganda is unbounded: “Here the bigotry is anti-Semitism, a xenophobia that ironically unites blacks and whites in a feeding frenzy.”

In order to refute this statement you can simply provide A SINGLE example of “anti-Semitism” in the trial of Leo Frank. Below are 4 articles FILLED with dozens of examples of JEWISH RACISM in that trial–including the constant use of the word N*GGER by Frank and his attorneys.

The “feeding frenzy” was by Jews and Leo Frank’s defenders upon Blacks.


Tony Frankel September 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for writing in, Tingba. Sadly, in your desire to right history, you ignorantly have attacked the wrong person. I didn’t write this show, I reviewed it. In the musical, bookwriter Alfred Uhry and composer / lyricist Jason Robert Brown have black people lie (a maid, a janitor) to indict Mr. Frank, who is Jewish. And Mary’s friends also lied. All of this has been corroborated by historians. Here, my job is to report back from what is happening on the stage—a musical about the fervor surrounding the Phagan trial, and the death of Leo Frank by a lynch mob.

In essence, you yourself are acting like that crowd: You accuse me of being “racist” and “vicious” when you yourself have reacted from your strong emotions and not reality.

You included many links to support your argument that Leo Frank was a racist, and that may have been true (this was, after all, the Deep South), but Stage and Cinema does not include links in comments.


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