Anyone in the musical theatre world would have heard of the formidable American composer, lyricist and playwright Jason Robert Brown. His works have become both widely recognized and well-loved by many in the theatre community, for his sincere storytelling, complicated but emotionally driven songs and for the phenomenal performers that he has involved to perform his pieces. Songs for A New World, The Last Five Years, and most recently, 13, are just some of his works.
And now audiences in Melbourne will get the chance to see the riveting and moving musical Parade, with songs by Jason Robert Brown, when Waterdale brings it to the stage this March.
First performed at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in New York in 1998, with a book by Alfred Uhry, Parade recounts the story of the 1913 trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager, who was brought to trial under accusations of raping and murdering a young female worker at his factory. Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the musical brings to light some of the anti-Semitic undercurrents of that time, while focusing on the relationship between the accused Leo Frank and his wife, Lucille.
With a history of not shying away from complicated and fascinating musicals, having performed the likes of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim, Waterdale is proudly presenting it’s season of Parade with a slight twist. They are performing, for the first time in Australia, the Donmar Warehouse Revised Edition of the show.
When Parade was brought to the Donmar Warehouse, a 250-seat subsidised theatre in West End, it was clear that some changes would have to be made to the show to make it work. Afterall, Parade was initially written as an epic “an American opera” as director Hal Prince wanted it. Opened initially with a cast of thirty-six and an orchestra of twenty, the show was big and made no illusions of being anything other than that. “Because of the size of the Donmar, there was no way to recreate the size of that production,” says Jason Robert Brown, “and so we reduced the cast to fifteen and the orchestra to nine. (Even at those numbers, it's the biggest show the Donmar have ever done.) Therefore, everything about the show is tighter, sharper, smaller, more aggressive. I'm not sure that always works in the show's favor, but much of the time it certainly does.”
Cast member Melissa Kahraman is “beyond excited to be able to present Parade with Waterdale Theatre Company. This is the Victorian Amateur Premiere of the Donmar Warehouse Revised Edition of Parade, so I’m going to put it out there and say 99% of audience members will not have seen this version.”
As always, a little bit of surprise never hurts and audience, and while the story of Parade is based on a historical event there are always things about history that we are unaware of, and a show like Parade does everything it can to present those unknown and moving moments to an otherwise factual part of history.
“What really moved me is how universal and prevalent the themes in Parade are today,” says Kahraman. “Love, hate, pride, patriotism, ignorance, innocence, guilt, judgement, fear, prejudice, racism; we deal with all of these on a daily basis and until reading through the script, I hadn’t necessarily noticed how far we as human beings have come but also how much more growing we have to do.”
With every show, the cast is required to do research. Whether it’s personal research into the type of character you’re playing, or background information on the era of the piece, research is a crucial part of the process of putting on a show. When the show itself is based on a historical event, however, that research component becomes even more crucial. “In order to truly understand the severity of the case and just how monumental it is to the history of America’s South, one has to do the research,” insist Kahraman. “I came to be a part of Parade already having some knowledge on the case but not necessarily enough on the time period. I found I was most interested in the roles both men and women played as well as the attitudes and behaviours toward the ‘coloured people’. Without a clear understanding of where particular people sat in the social hierarchy and what role people played, I don’t think it would be possible to deliver a believable performance nor would we be able to understand why Leo Frank was wrongly accused and lynched.”
The story, confronting on it’s own as a piece of history, is an emotionally charged piece when put together with beautiful music and thoughtful performances from it’s talented cast. “The show is so beautifully cast,” says Kahraman. “Listening to Jaclyn DeVincentis and Tyson Legge sing is an experience in itself and backed by the strong ensemble; it’s honestly a joy to go to rehearsal every week with people I care about.” And you can expect to be moved by this production. “People’s opinions about right and wrong, guilty and innocent will be tested,” continues Kahraman. “They will be leaving the show not only having learned something about the case but also about themselves.”
Don’t miss out on your chance to see this thought-provoking and moving production of a show set in a fascinating point in history.
Producer: Jake Remmington
Director: Aimee Fraser
Assistant Director: Laura Perini
Musical Director: Ian Nisbet
Assistant Musical Director: Sophie Antoniou
Choreographer: Emma Kiely
Friday 2nd March, 8pm
Saturday 3rd March, 8pm
Sunday 4th March, 5pm (Twilight Show with special "Governor's Afternoon Tea")
Thursday 8th March, 8pm
Friday 9th March, 8pm
Saturday 10th March, 8pm
COST: General – $24
Concession (Student, Pensioner) $20