Latest Review – Parade [Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre]

PARADE

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York 

Until Sunday 6th August 2023

Jason Robert Brown’s deeply affecting tale of antisemitism, corruption and justice in the Deep South in the early 20th century is not a show that is revived very often, so when a major, full-scale production such as this one comes along, it feels like something of a special event.

Michael Arden’s stirring production was originally presented at New York City Center in November 2022 as the gala concert presentation of its 2022/2023 season. Now moving to Broadway for a strictly limited season, Arden’s production cleverly retains that feel of a staged concert presentation in its stripped-back, minimalist approach.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia between the years of 1913 and 1915, Parade dramatises the trial and imprisonment of Jewish American factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of the rape and murder of his 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The show explores the antisemitic tensions of the time, media sensationalism and the political corruption around the judicial system, with the newlywed Leo and his devoted wife Lucille propelled into an inconceivable test of faith, hope and a desperate fight for justice.

Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond lead the cast as Leo and Lucille, reprising their raw, impassioned performances from the City Center concert presentation, and both are truly exceptional, fully justifying their respective Tony Award nominations for Best Leading Actor in a Musical and Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Their chemistry is magnificent and their vocals glorious. Excellent support too from Alex Joseph Grayson, Sean Allan Krill, Eddie Cooper, Kelli Barrett and an outstanding ensemble company.

Dane Laffrey’s scenic design incorporates a central ‘feature’ podium, on which, much of the primary action is staged, with the company seated on stage level, either side of the podium, as they await their respective turns. In retaining the concert-style approach, the sense of the courtroom and trial is heightened, with the full company constantly watching on, silently, from the shadows of the stage.

Parade first premiered on Broadway in 1998 and went on to receive a total of nine Tony Award nominations, with Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry winning for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical, respectively, though the musical lost out on Best Musical to the musical review, Fosse.

The show marked the final chapter in Uhry’s Atlanta Trilogy, following Driving Miss Daisy (1987) and The Last Night of Ballyhoo (1996), and the libretto remains a penetrating and richly-layered work from the Atlanta native.

Jason Robert Brown’s score is an absolute masterpiece, filled with incredibly complex orchestrations, rousing numbers and sharp, biting lyrics, fusing numerous different musical themes and styles. The show opens with a staggeringly powerful prologue, The Old Red Hills of Home, one of the most exhilarating opening numbers in musical theatre, establishing Georgia’s passion for its homeland in a post Civil War America and setting the tone for the action that follows, and never once lets up.

Parade isn’t always easy viewing. The subject matter is uncomfortable and the corruption and injustice displayed is deeply distressing. That said, Arden’s revival is essential viewing, and this is a timely, thrilling and magnificently staged new production of this great musical.


Running Time: 2 hours and 30-minutes (approx.), including one 15-minute interval.

Until Sunday 6th August 2023

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

This production contains theatrical haze, flashing lights, graphic violence, themes of racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy.


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