Review: Parade, London Theatre Workshop

“Not much survives of the old hills of Georgia

Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade is a brutally effective piece of musical theatre, based on a harrowing turn-of-the-century true story of racism and anti-Semitism, child-murder and mob mentality, set to a wide-ranging and often challenging score. Last seen in London at the Southwark Playhouse, Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop go for another small-scale staging, directed by Jody Tranter, the intimacy of which again plays to the strength of the piece. 

Bringing a 13-strong company into such a small space is something of a challenge but a necessary one in order give the real sense of the full scope of a community at odds with each other. Tranter manages it well though with a fluid sense of pace swirling around Harry Johnson and Justin Williams’ inventive set design and ably assisted by some ingeniously conceived choreography from Adam Scown, bringing a real intricate power to the ensemble numbers.

And at the heart of the group is Ross Barnes’ Leo Frank, the Brooklyn Jew now resident in Georgia who finds himself wrongfully accused of the death of a child at his factory, and Lily de-la-Haye as his long-suffering wife Lucille. The gradual reigniting of their passion in the face of an increasingly hysterical media commotion around the case is beautifully done, with both performers excavating powerful emotional depths, especially recent graduate de-la-Haye.

Erika Gundesen’s five-strong band display a fine appreciation of JRB’s score – ‘Real Big News’ sparkles with its unique energy, ‘The Old Red Hills of Georgia’ remains as gorgeous a song as has ever been composed, and Michael Moulton nails the shifty ‘That’s What He Said’ with real aplomb. In the end, it is a little depressing to think both that this really happened and that much of it remains relevant today but that only goes to show how pertinent and powerful a show it is.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval) 
Booking until 13th September

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