Grace Nalty reviews the widely anticipated Parade at the Bloomsbury Theatre
A lot of people have been anticipating Parade. Based on a true story from 1913 and set in Georgia, the musical follows a Jew named Leo Frank being accused of the murder of 13 year old Mary Phagan – and it is gripping throughout.
Parade isn’t a production you see very often, so it’s refreshing to see UCLU Musical Theatre society take on something fresh and important, with such strong themes of anti-Semitism and racism. These strong themes however didn’t take away from the love story that was also developing – there were emotional moments all the way through, with a few people around me shedding some tears.
And there were some truly emotional scenes, including the funeral scene that saw an impassioned song by Frankie Epps, played by Ross Tomlinson, and it’s these sad scenes that bring the audience back to the realisation that this is based on a true story. Although the story is a little hard to follow at first, I would strongly recommend not researching before, as the twists and turns are what make it so appealing and different from any musical you’ll have seen before.
Vincenzo Monachello’s depiction of Leo Frank was honest and open; it felt like his heart was laid bare and it made the audience incredibly sympathetic to him. However, he wasn’t the only cast member to shine: Heather Barnish’s portrayal of Lucille Frank was stunning, and her vocals were consistently impressive. Jim Conley, played by Harlan Davies, received a great reaction every time he was on stage, especially being one of the only characters that had an element of humour in this otherwise serious musical.
Credit: Theo Hopkinson
Krupa Narayanan and Whitney Noaskhare’s rendition of A Rumblin’ and a Rollin’ struck a chord with the audience, with its critical lyrics ‘there’s a black man hanging in every tree’ being so potent – they were received brilliantly during the show and also in the finale, a real credit to their talents in the such small role. The factory girls were also captivating in their trial song, however there were opportunities for better harmonising to really allow this trio to shine.
The production team did a great job with so many aspects of the musical – the use of slow motion was impressive, as well as the time-hopping in the trail scene. But for me there were aspects that just didn’t work. The use of chalkboards as scenery was distracting due to people carrying them on and then drawing the scenery; I found it hard to focus and occasionally didn’t even know what they were drawing.
While Parade was enjoyable, it did have a few technical problems, such as microphone crackling or some voices being completely lost against others – athough that was probably due to further microphone faults. Bearing in mind this was the first night, these are probably issues that are going to be dealt with in the coming days, and they only slightly affected the flow of the musical.
The music itself was handled beautifully by the band, who deserved a standing ovation and are usually such a forgotten yet vital component.
An unusual musical that is worth seeing even if you don’t like musicals (like me!). Soaked in history, addressing major social issues and accompanied with amazing vocals, this musical has something for everyone.
Featured image credit: Tom Ganley