Theatre Raleigh has an all-out hit with its production of the musical, "Parade." Every element, from performers to technical aspects, reflects the highest talent and creativity. As applied to the disturbing-yet-moving true story of an infamous murder trial, these elements come together in a textbook example of how theater should work.
The 1998 Broadway show, which won Tony Awards for Jason Robert Brown's score and Alfred Uhry's script, tells the gripping story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent in 1913 Atlanta, accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl. His arrest, trial and conviction stirred up waves of anti-Semitism and anti-Yankee sentiment.
Indications of witness coercion and withheld evidence prompted the commutation of Frank's sentence to life, but angry citizens took matters into their own hands, kidnapping him from prison and lynching him. The musical unflinchingly exposes the horrific results of prejudice, but also teaches the redemptive power of love, compassion and decency.
Director Eric Woodall once again proves a master at fashioning a nigh-perfect whole from many parts. His casting is so right that it's difficult to imagine others in the roles. All 16 can't be individually praised, but three standouts are Zachary Prince's Leo, prickly but ultimately touching; Lauren Kennedy's devoted Lucille, determined to fight for her husband's life; and Maurice Johnson's Jim, the factory janitor, whose theater-filling numbers stop the show. Joshua Tyler Parrott (the murdered girl's boyfriend), Sean Powell (the lead newspaper reporter) and Ken Griggs (the sympathetic governor) also are powerful singer-actors.
In the three-quarter round set-up, Woodall's cinematic scene changes and Sherry Lee Allen's characterful choreography flow freely, beautifully augmented by Chris Bernier's subtly hued lighting and effective set pieces of benches, tables and cell bars. LeGrande Smith's detailed costuming persuasively sets the period.
Julie Bradley's seven-piece orchestra buoys the musical along with marvelous verve, never overpowering the artfully amplified singers in Eric Collins' well-balanced sound design.
The two short rows of side seats do not provide ideal views of the staging, but place viewers more intimately into the action.
The production dramatically demonstrates the visceral force that live theater can exert and shouldn't be missed.