Saturday, October 24, 2009


Guest blogger today. My daughter Annie files her review of the hit musical PARADE, now playing at the Mark Taper Forum in LA. It's won numerous Tonys but none of that matters until you've been accepted by the Los Angeles theater crowd. So how did it stack up? Here's Annie's report.
Parade is a musical about the Leo Frank case, which took place in Atlanta in 1913. A young girl named Mary Phagen who worked at a pencil factory was murdered, and Leo Frank, who ran the factory, became the number one suspect primarily because he was Jewish and from Brooklyn. It already sounds like a toe-tapping good time, doesn’t it? Luckily, while it might not be a feel good musical, it is a beautifully written one. Alfred Uhry’s book and Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics make the show captivating, touching and thought-provoking. Plus it probably isn’t nearly as depressing as Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show.

This production of Parade began in London's Donmar Warehouse where it had been reworked for a smaller cast and a smaller venue. As a result, there was a lot more double casting than there was in the original production. I found it really confusing. There was only one man playing all of the African-American male parts. My heart goes out to the casting director. She could only find one African-American man in Los Angeles who was able to sing, dance and act? I guess it’s a miracle that she was able to find the one. Also, the guy who played both the lead reporter and the governor of Georgia looked a lot like John Hamm, which begged the question “Jesus, how many secret identities does Don Draper have?!”

I was surprised/concerned at how many children I saw in the audience. I have a little suggestion for parents: please read the synopsis of the musical, not just the title, before taking your 7 year old. Parade isn’t about the balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Ragtime isn’t a re-usical of Scott Joplin hits, and Les Miserables should be obvious (and yet there are always children there)! But I digress.

I had heard very mixed things about T.R. Knight’s performance as Leo Frank, but I thought he did a very nice job. His acting was excellent, and though I don’t expect him to be doing any duets with Andrea Boccelli soon, his singing was quite good as well. I do feel bad for the guy though. First he gets attacked by Isaiah Washington for being gay, and now the entire South is against him for being Jewish. He can’t win, can he?

Lara Pulver, who played Lucile Frank (Leo’s Wife) and Tony winner Christian Hoff, who played prosecuting attorney, Hugh Dorsey were both wonderful. The role of Hugh Dorsey calls for a very large performance, and Hoff was definitely up to the challenge. He chewed up every inch of scenery --I don’t think there was a single Confederate flag left without teeth marks on it.

I was lucky enough to see this performance from the front row, which at the Taper Forum is basically sitting on the stage. I was very excited about this, until I started getting spit on. I don't mean a little--I mean I was wringing out my shirt by the end. I guess I can't complain that they enunciated poorly.

All and all, it was a very successful production, and one I highly recommend.

There you have it. A success! Ends November 15th. Thanks, Annie.


Kate said...

Cheers! I'm so disappointed I'm missing this production, but it's a great musical and I'm glad it's making the rounds. If you haven't seen 'The Last Five Years', it's outstanding. Jason Robert Brown needs more love. He's a brilliant composer.

Anonymous said...

Cool review. I already have tickets. I LOVE Jason Robert Brown, so it's always nice to see people talking about his work.

Bob Claster said...

All I can say is that you should have seen the production of PARADE that was in Palos Verdes Peninsula about a year ago. There are so many elements to this show that were either inept or missing in the Taper production. At the heart of the story is the fact that Leo and Lucille's marriage was frosty at the start, but the adversity brings out the best in them, and they discover each other's capability and fall in love all over again. And the shrinking of the cast and the book means that the sub-plots of the malpractice of Leo's attorney, and the collusion among the district attorney, governor, etc., etc. are just about gone. Knight's performance was shorn of almost all intensity. And at least the night I saw it at the Taper, the sound mix was so bad, the relative loudness of the band made most of the lyrics almost indecipherable.

It is a great, though very sad, show. And above all, a great score. And you should have seen that other production, in a little church in which wonderful singers could sing unmiked. It was so good, I went back the following weekend to see it a second time.

William C Bonner said...

I have to ask if the kids in the audience were well behaved through the entire show?

I've met some kids that are more mature than some adults. I've also seen friends of those kids that fell in the other extreme of maturity.

I don't know what the situation was in your case. I don't have kids of my own, so have rarely had to make the decisions of what's appropriate for any particular kid.

SharoneRosen said...

Great review Annie. I got to see Parade a couple of weeks ago... second to LAST row (all that was left that night).

Even from the back row, all of the performances crackled. The script was tight and moved along well.

If you like musical drama, don't miss it.
(did you see JR Brown's "13" a couple of seasons ago at the Taper? Some really fun music there!)

JRB said...

It is the weirdest thing in the world to check in to this blog that I read every day and find a whole entry about my show. Glad you liked it, Annie! And thanks everyone else for all the love.

wv: imilt - the official Berle website.

MadAsHell said...

Papageiena said JRB needs more love?


Zillions of practically rabid fans, all of whom seem to love his four musicals and be wholly unfamiliar with any others.

Dozens of articles declaring him the new Sondheim

Tons of imitators, all using catchy pop grooves repeated endlessly, while neglecting to use any subtlety, subtext or wit (average length: 7 minutes).

Brown won a Tony for writing the score to a show that had already closed. How often does that happen?

Anonymous said...

You read very mixed reviews about TR? Really? Where? I have read hundreds of critics and fan comments and they were all raving about how amazing he was, vocally and emotionally, and saying he was the best thing about the show. Even the rare critics against Parade said that TR was awesome.