Posted on October 4, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Caroline McGinn’s review here, but probably not for long.

Critics’ Choice
Four stars

Imagine ‘The Crucible’ re-scored by Sondheim as an all-singing paedophile-hunt by Georgian vigilantes circa 1913. And welcome to ‘Parade’, the unlikeliest pond-crossing success of the year. Jason Robert Brown’s musical takes as its text the true(-ish) tale of Jewish factory boss Leo Frank, dubiously convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old girl. It’s sensitively scripted (from the book by Alfred ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ Uhry). And it is produced quite beautifully out of the shadowed recesses of the Donmar’s intimate stage.

Indeed, my only quarrel with Rob Ashford’s production is that it’s so nuanced it shows up the central love story (between Leo and his wife) as the piece of winsome clumsiness it is. Though Bertie Carvel’s buttoned-up Leo and Lara Pulver’s insistently graceful Lucille do very nearly make you believe that Leo’s conviction as a paedophile slayer brings out all the pink-cheeked romance previously that their marriage was missing.

Still, there’s another major story – the one that makes the ‘Red Hills of Georgia’ ring with tales of Atlanta’s ‘Little Angel’ slain by the ‘Yankee Jew’ – and this one is powerfully scored and staged. Shaun Escoffery gives exceptionally strong support as the black Janitor who turns State evidence against Frank to save his own vulnerable skin. And Gary Milner makes a brilliantly opportunistic hound-dog news-hound. But it’s the hick-psychotic energy to Ashford’s crowd-scene choreography that brings the show to the boil, stirring up every snatch of Confederate march music, innocent popular ballad and simmering blues, and peaking in a wildly vengeful courtroom cake-walk, where the mob hoists its scapegoats high and hammers the red earth with invisible hoes. It’s largely atmospheric, but offers way more depth than the ‘Look at me now’ formats and wide-eyed lyrical opportunism of the love-lyrics. This is a gripping and frequently jazzy production – but, to do justice to its complex sexual and political story you’d need not only Sondheim on piano but also Arthur Miller on moral bass.

Caroline McGinn , Mon Oct 1