The hardest part of watching Parade at Ford’s Theatre is knowing that the story of Leo Frank’s trial and lynching in 20th century Atlanta is true. Tony award nominee Euan Morton (Leo Frank) sheds a light on the tragic tale of Mr. Frank and his struggle as a Jewish pencil factory worker ostracized for his faith and Brooklyn heritage.
Director Stephen Rayne’s adaptation of Parade, which is based on the book by Alfred Uhry with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, is a passionate musical production with an important message of what happens when people show intolerance for others based on religious faith or skin color.
Frank was sentenced to death – a ruling that was later overturned and changed to life in prison – for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan. The murder was a crime he did not commit. He was later hung by a group of Atlanta citizen’s who believed that he was guilty for the crime and wanted nothing more than to see him dead for his criminal acts.
To think that this man, a man who appears to be nothing but kind in nature, who puts his work above all else in order to save a nest egg to start a family with his beloved wife, was persecuted based on a lie is hard to stomach.
What makes Parade a must-see production is the fact that there is no weakest link in its string of performers. While nobody blew the audience away, it’s safe to say that each cast member was just as strong as the next.
Morton’s portrayal of Frank was delicate with moments of firey passion. His rendition of “This Is Not Over Yet” spoke of hope leading the to audience believe that he might get out alive and live happily with his wife once again.
Jenny Fellner (Lucille Frank) illuminated the theater with her brilliant resonating vocal performance and brought a raw emotion to an already heart wrenching production. “All the Wasted Time,” a duet between Fellner and Morton, was the musical high of the evening. Their vocal chemistry rang through the hall showing a pure love between Leo and Lucille. It was beautiful.
Kevin McAllister (Jim Conely) also put on a memorable performance of “Feel the Rain Fall,” which is one of Parade’s blusier numbers. His range and vocal quality is equivalent to the likes of Jesse L. Watkin’s portrayal of Tom Collins from the original Brodway cast of Rent (a role which he has played before, by the way) with a touch of delta blues that adds a sensual zest to his delivery.
Today, it’s hard to turn on the television news or log onto your local or national newspaper’s website without seeing a variation of an act of hate as a headline. Parade reminds its audience that blind hatred toward someone for being who they are is nothing more than a disgusting and vile act. But despite all that hate, there is still the hope that tomorrow might bring change and hate will soon become a distant memory. That is the story of Leo and Lucille Frank.
Parade is now playing through october 30 at Ford’s Theatre, located at 511 10th Street NW. Tickets range $15-$75 and may be purchased online at www.fords.org or via Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787. Closest Metro: Metro Center (Red Line).