Wednesday, 31 October 2007

REVIEW: "Parade"

(Something informal this time as the RZ continues to muck about with writing styles.)

What is left to be said about Parade that hasn’t been covered by every critic and blogger in London? Near-universally raved by the critics and in line for a new London cast recording, the show is yet another hit for the folks at the Donmar.

For the few readers out there who haven’t kept up with the show since its 1998 Broadway incarnation or who are entirely unfamiliar with the story, Parade is a 95% sung through telling of the Leo Frank case, where a Jewish factory supervisor was arrested for the murder of a young girl working in his factory and lynched by a mob when his sentence was overturned. This is not the making of a happy musical, although there are occasional moments of joy to be found in Alfred Uhry’s book and Jason Robert Brown’s score.

What the duo bring to the table instead is an evening of intensity, revealing the power of the media and community to override the workings of the justice system unchecked. While the Frank case is an infamous miscarriage of the courts, a resonance can be felt in newspapers dominated by celebrity murderers and royal car crashes, and the audience is given a vivid reminder of what can go wrong when biases and politics get in the way of doing what is right.

In terms of the production itself, Rob Ashford has redeemed himself from last season’s uninspired work on Curtains with a focused direction and integrated, period inspired choreography lacking in many recent West End offerings. Christopher Oram has a limited space to work in as designer, but creates an effective two tiered set with minimal pieces showing off a variety of locations.

While the original Broadway production focused on Leo and used reporter Britt Craig as a narrator, the new revision is an ensemble piece, and the cast are uniformly excellent - any of them could be lauded for their work here, but it would be unfair to single any of them out when all are worthy of praise.

With its heavy themes and less than cheerful plot, Parade is not for everybody, but those willing to engage it will be rewarded with a tightly constructed, explosive work capable of proving the intellectual and artistic merit of the musical.

Where: Donmar Warehouse
When: Until Nov. 24, M-Sa @ 7:30PM, W/Sa @ 2:30 PM
Cost: £15-32.50
Concessions: Be prepared for confusion - Seniors and Disabled patrons can book in advance, but students and other usual suspects must wait until 30 min. prior to daily performance. All concessions are £12. SRO is also available for £7.50 same day if the performance is otherwise sold out.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £25. It would be full price, but the Donmar is one of the most uncomfortable theatres in London - all seats are bench seats, and anybody with back problems (like the RZ) or long legs (like the RZ) may wish to consider SRO instead. Still, £25 will buy anything most nights except for the absolute top seats.

RZ Other Notes: Regarding the revisions for the new production, Jason Robert Brown goes into the details on his blog. It’s great reading, even if you aren’t familiar with the original, as it lends some extra insight into the revival.

If you liked Caroline, or Change, you will almost certainly like Parade, which is a similar form of musical-ized play, though Caroline has a far smaller focus plot-wise and a more complex score. As the season currently stands, this will be duking it out with Hairspray (which had press night while the RZ was at the Donmar) for this year’s Best Musical awards. Highly recommended, get to it while you can.

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