Parade, Southwark Playhouse, London
A true story of justice gone wrong
Monday 22 August 2011
The New York Times rained heavily on Parade, with the result that Jason Robert Brown's 1998 musical lasted for only 84 performances on Broadway.
It was left to London's Donmar Warehouse – in the shape of a brilliant production by Rob Ashford some nine years later – to vindicate the piece as a daring and ambitious attempt to dramatise a heinous, real-life miscarriage of justice in early 20th century Georgia. Leo Frank is not the likeliest figure to take centre stage in a musical.
A transplanted Brooklyn Jew, he was framed in 1913 for the rape and murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year- old labourer at the Atlanta pencil factory where he was superintendent and ended up lynched by a mob.
Staged in confrontation-heightening traverse fashion in the gloomy, subterranean vaults of Southwark Playhouse, Thom Southerland's compelling revival at Southwark Playhouse has the full measure of the imaginative ways in which this music drama intertwines the personal and the political. The piece is bookended by two Confederate Day Parades and the anthem "The Old Hills of Georgia". Given a spine-tingling rendition by the versatile, multi-tasking company here, that song feels at once atavistically stirring and worryingly suspect, redolent of the Southern solidarity that will make a scapegoat of outsider Frank, whose repression is conveyed, with minute detail and no false bids for sympathy, in Alastair Brookshaw's brave performance.
The blatant rabble-rousing, the careerist calculation that drives a prosecutor with a lousy conviction record (excellent Mark Inscoe) to try to up the ante by nailing a Jew rather than a "nigra", the crooked deals with key witnesses – all these are choreographed with a terrifically baleful dynamism here. But though Laura Pitt-Pulford is in ecstatic voice as Frank's wife Lucille, the way a mismatch is shown to blossom into true love in the shadow of the gallows seems a sop to convention.
The eclectic score, which ranges through blues, dixie, gospel, spirituals et al, is delivered with passion by an ace seven-piece band. At the moment, though, there's a problem of balance: in contrast to the punchy presence of the instrumental playing, the miked voices sound compressed. That you gradually learn to overlook this is a further tribute to the admirable company.
To 17 September (020 7407 0234)
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
comedy Erm...he seems to be back
tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
- 5 Magna Carta will be 800 years old next year – the perfect reminder of the rights and freedoms we must hold dear
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
The Interview film review: Controversial gross-out satire is broad, bawdy and bad - but undeniably entertaining
Doctor Who Christmas special, review: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever