Review: Parade by the Musical Theatre Society
Calvin Crozier reviews the UKC Musical Theatre Society’s production of Parade, which was performed at the Marlowe Studio on the 3 and 4 of February.
At the beginning of February Kent’s Musical Theatre Society staged a production of the musical Parade, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book written by Alfred Uhry. The show focuses on the 1913 trial of Leo Frank, the manager of a factory who is accused and convicted of the rape and murder of a thirteen-year-old girl, Mary Phagan. Based on a true story, the fact that Leo Frank was Jewish turned the entire trial into an arena for anti-Semitic sensationalism, primarily in the U.S. state of Georgia. Directed by Emily Canessa Davies, with assistant director and choreographer Amelia Hamilton, and musical directors Phillip Hunt and Joe Prescott, Parade was a treat to behold and was superbly executed.
Admittedly, the music was not entirely to my taste. Prior to seeing the show, I did a little bit of research and discovered that Stephen Sondheim was approached to compose the score, but promptly refused. Alas, this fact was prevalent in my mind throughout the show, as I am an avid lover of Sondheim. The subject matter was pertinent and hard-hitting, however I felt that the songs could not successfully transport me to a place of deep emotion, as they seemed to lend themselves to a general overtone of infuriating whininess.
Having said that, and suitably highlighting my distaste for the score, I shall now address the actual performance of this particular piece. The production starred George Salmon as Leo Frank, the aforementioned factory manager, Edina Fisher-Allen as Lucille Frank, his long-suffering but stalwart wife, Joe Prescott as the expository character of the Young Soldier and juvenile Frankie Epps, and Emelie Duke as multiple different characters. Alongside them, Jordan Coverdale, Adam Sanderson, and Isaac French rounded out the main cast as Hugh Dorsey, the prosecuting attorney, Britt Craig, an inebriated journalist, and Tom Watson, the editor of a magazine whose function I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
With my preconceptions about some of the cast from other shows, and my excitement at the prospect of fresh meat (or fish, in the case of George Salmon), I had very high expectations of the performance value of this show, and I was not disappointed. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Edina before in several showcases, but I was delighted to see that George Salmon, a relative newcomer to MTS, held his own when paired with a powerhouse like her. As the titular couple of Leo and Lucille, they were well matched aesthetically and musically. Listening to them harmonize and play off one another was a magnificent treat, and they both performed impeccably. I wasn’t particularly moved by the character’s plight, but then I rarely am, so that was less a case of their acting skills and more a case of the disassociation I had with the music. Besides the two of them, most of the supporting cast just faded into the background for me. I understand this is an unfair point to make, as they were the two main roles, however an impressive performer can make the audience remember them with a single song. The only time this was achieved was with the song ‘Rumblin’ and a Rollin’, whereby Jimand Allotey and Emelie Duke brought my interest back and entranced my ears, making me forget about the entirety of the musical besides that number. Subsequently, it was the only song I remembered after leaving the show, as I was still reeling from their soulful melody.
Overall, the prowess of the cast, coupled with the minimalist set design and the proficiency of the production team made for an entertaining evening and a wonderful show.