2000-09-13
The Denver Rocky Mountain News
Lisa Bornstein

The specter of the Dreyfuss affair looms over the musical Parade at the  Buell Theater like the massive tree that foreshadows the the lynching of Leo  Frank.

Frank, like the French army officer Dreyfuss, was the victim of a kangaroo court in which anti-Semitism, rather than fact, determined the outcome. A Brooklyn transplant running a factory in 1913 Atlanta, Frank was charged with the murder of a 14-year-old girl.

The musical pulls no punches. With Alfred Uhry’s book and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown(who conducts his own score), Parade packs a lot into 2 1/2 hours: It paints the Confederate pride still strong in Georgia, the poverty that led children to the factories, the difference between a homegrown Jewish girl and a New York transplant, and the national protests that probably would not have developed had Frank had darker skin.

Parade doesn’t depict either Frank or his wife, Lucille, as angels. Superbly portrayed by David Pittu, Frank is an intense, humorless man full of condescension. Lucille (Andrea Burns, with a mature voice but inept accent) is flirty and spoiled.

Director Harold Prince gives the show a brisk pacing and a genuinely Southern atmosphere, emphasized by Riccardo Hernandez’s exquisite set.

Brown’s score is uneven. It thrills at points, as in a journalist’s drunken plea for breaking news (delivered by the appealing Randy Redd). One of Frank’s most damning witnesses (Keith Byron Kirk) delivers his songs as a slick raconteur who both charms and menaces. A canon of three girlish employees casts Frank as a lecherous devil, and Pittu steps out of character to embody their absurd charge.

Most chilling is the Act I finale, in which Frank’s sentencing is followed by the townspeople’s raucous dancing and singing. The scene is like the anatomy of a mob, as discordant horns rise and say more than any dialogue could.

But the Franks’ love song, All the Wasted Time, and the show’s finale fall flat: The first feels like formula musical theater, the second an anticlimax.

The result is a multitextured tale demonstrating that the cause celebre and miscarriage of justice have a long tradition in the United States.


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