By Sam Mooney
Parade, presented by Acting Up Stage Company and Studio 180 Theatre, is a musical about rape and murder based on a true story. It is not Sweeney Todd or Little Shop of Horrors. When I read about Parade I thought rape was a strange subject for a musical. Obviously some crimes are more unspeakable than others.
The story started in 1913 in Atlanta when a 13 year old employee of a pencil factory was found dead in the factory basement. She had been murdered and possibly raped. So really this is a musical about murder rather than about rape. It’s a horrible story, even for it’s time, and enraged editors and politicians across the US. Two people were arrested for the crime, Jim Conley, a black janitor, and Leo Frank, the Jewish manager of the factory. Conley became a witness for the prosecution at the trial of Frank. Given the rampant antisemitism in the south at the time the verdict was pre-ordained and witnesses were coached to guarantee that verdict. Leo Frank was convicted and sentenced to death. And that’s the first act.
The second act focuses on Leo’s wife Lucille’s efforts to get the verdict overturned. The Governor finally commuted his sentence to life imprisonment giving the couple hope that there would be a new trial when tempers cooled. That wasn’t to happen. A group of influential Georgians, including an ex-governor and a judge , kidnapped Leo and lynched him.
So that’s the story, what about the show?
I’m glad I went and I enjoyed myself but…I wasn’t emotionally engaged. And, given the story, I should have been. I will say that it could have been me. There was a standing ovation at the end which I have to admit surprised me. The performances were good but I really didn’t feel that they were outstanding.
The man sitting next to me didn’t either. During intermission I asked him if he was enjoying the show and he said that there was always something to enjoy. At the end we were the last people to stand. He said there’s alway something to stand about.
The missing ingredient was passion. It felt as if someone was singing me a documentary.
– Parade is playing until January 22 at the Berkeley St Theatre Upstairs, 26 Berkeley St
– Tickets are $35.00 and are available online, by phone at 416-368-3110, or at the box office
– Showtimes are Monday through Saturday at 8pm with a matinee on Saturdays at 2 pm
Photo of the cast of Parade by John Karastamatis.