“Whatever happened to Hello, Dolly?”
An interesting question, sure to be overheard at numerous intermissions across the country this year as Parade hits the road. This 1998 musical chronicling the wrongful conviction and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank, certainly is “no high-kicker,” as Alfred Uhry put it.
Yet the team behind Parade has crafted a fine musical that, while sluggishly directed, will certainly be remembered for its audacity and thrilling score.
If his utterly passionate and sweeping Broadway debut with Parade is any indication, composer Jason Robert Brown is at the forefront of these nouveau musical theatre writers . Classic yet wholly original in style, Brown’s score tautly braces the show as an emotional framework/springboard while at the same time being totally easy on the ears. Of special note, the aforementioned, heart-wrenching “All the Wasted Time” will unquestionably go down as one of the finest ballads ever written.
Andrea Burns, late of Saturday Night, does a splendid job as Leo’s steadfast wife Lucille. Her counterpart David Pittu gives an appropriately understated performance as the martyred Leo Frank. While his delivery faltered occasionally, his chemistry with Ms. Burns truly blossomed as the story progressed, making the tragic ending all the more heartbreaking. The ensemble was excellent across the board, and even though they had had only one full run-though, everything seemed to click perfectly.
While director Hal Prince (Cabaret, Follies, Phantom of the Opera, et al) does a fine job in fluidly presenting Leo’s tragic story, there are a few periods when the physical and emotional momentum building onstage come to a screeching halt. His direction is occasionally too “literal,” seeming as if he momentarily forgot that he was directing such a sweeping musical and not a purely historical docudrama. The production was made to fit the painfully flat and spacious Fox stage, and the thrust was sorely missed. Much of the action seemed terribly distant, and I felt that the oceanic orchestra pit was not solely to blame.
Alfred Uhry’s expert handle on the Southern experience makes for an excellent book; simple, earnest, and not the least bit patronizing. He beautifully interweaves the love story and the trial into the colorful world that was Atlanta circa 1913, and Prince at least keeps the integrity of the book mostly intact.
Atlanta’s Theatre of the Stars (Chris Manos, producer) presents Jason Robert Brown, Alfred Uhry, and Hal Prince’s Parade at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, June 13-18 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Book by Alfred Uhry, music, lyrics, and musical direction by Jason Robert Brown, directed by Hal Prince, choreography by Patricia Birch. Starring Andrea Burns and David Pittu. Also starring Adinah Alexander, Ray Aranha, Kristine Bowden, Jeff Edgerton, Donald Grody, Rick Hilsabeck, Daniel Frank Kelley, Keith Byron Kirk, Randy Redd, Peter Samuel, David Vosburgh, and John Leslie Wolfe. With Anne Allgood, Mimi Bessette, Justin Bohon, Elizabeth Brownlee, Diana Brownstone, David Coolidge, David Dannehl, Sandra DeNise, Joe Duffy, Peter Flynn, Carla J. Hargrove, Tim Howard, Siri Howard, Jamie Jonsson, Raissa Katona, Emily Klein, C. Mingo Long, Corey Reynolds, Greg Roderick, Tim Salamandyk, Laura Schutter, and NaTasha Yvette Williams.