This musical was conceived and directed on Broadway by the legendary producer and director Harold Prince.

The Leo Frank incident interested him and he commissioned a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.

PARADE first appeared on Broadway in 1998 achieving moderate success. However a 2023 Broadway revival was a huge success, capturing Tony awards ad nominations.

In many ways I see PARADE as a sequel to the only ever huge Broadway production on a Jewish theme , FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. At the end of FIDDLER the citizens of Anatevka are heading to what they believe to be a golden land, America.

Many were in for a rude shock as they faced anti-semiticism, particularly in the South. The first feature film ever made was the 1915 film THE BIRTH OF A NATION in which the Ku Klux Klan were the heroes and Jews and Blacks were the villains.

This was the world in to which Leo Frank found himself after being dragged reluctantly to Atlanta Georgia from Brooklyn, at the urging of his wife Lucille Frank and the promise of a good job.

Many of the greatest stage musicals have a heart of darkness amidst joyous musical numbers. An observant Jew, Leo Frank, stuck out amongst the ‘blonde Southerners’ who were resentful after the loss of the Civil War.

The musical is based on a true story of the 1913 trial of Leo Frank who was falsely accused of murdering a Southern girl, Mary Phagan.

During the trial the citizens of Georgia conspired with the police to create an almost insurmountable wall of evidence  against Leo Frank. Sentenced to be hanged by the local court, the avenues of appeal inevitably failed.

Throughout this travail Lucille Frank sought to clear her husband’s name and appealed to the Georgian Governor Blake Slato who saved him from the hangman’s rope but sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Nonetheless the rabid mob broke in to the jail where he was being held and lynched him. Although it is not mentioned in the play, an epilogue to the production was projected on to the stage curtain, that this travesty of justice  led to the creation of the Anti Defamation League.

Furthermore, nearly a hundred years after his death, a Board of Judicial Enquiry was opened to review all the aspects of the case.

Incongruously there are some glorious choral songs by the triple threat ensemble who beautifully sing, act and dance.

Aaron Robuck as Leo Frank and Montana Sharp as his wife Lucille perform with great poignancy and authenticity due to them being Jewish.  Robuck works as a Cantorial Soloist at North Shore Temple Emmanuel and Sharp is a Jewish singer-songwriter who has worked with artists of the calibre of Katie Noonan and Kate Ceberano.

Their gorgeous musical duets are a highlight of this production. The cast is huge and are uniformly excellent such that I am choosing not to cite individual members of the supporting cast for special mention. The huge cast adds a plushness and profundity that swells over the audience.

At the helm of this production is director Mark Taylor who skilfully teases out the strands of this complex story.

The Musical Director Mark Bradley leads a ten piece band which reaches the symphonic in its execution, with a lovely balance of the singers and the orchestra created by the sound designer David Barrell.

Choreographer Freya List moves the vast ensemble to create a brilliant tableaux and fully exploits the dancing skills of the ensemble.

The Lighting Designer Sidney Younger competently emphasises the dramatic moments of the production. I do not know if he is responsible for the titles between the scenes, but holding up rags and banners that are illegible, unilluminated  and unfurled for too short a time, detracts from this splendid production.

Harry Gill’s innovative set was versatile in design and his costumes design featured an Edwardian palate

Harry Gill, responsible for the set, props and costume design, created an Edwardian palate to be worn by the cast and an immovable set that was versatile in design. – fix this paragraph.

With an over 700 percent rise in anti-semitic incidents in Australia and exponentially rising anti-Jewish attacks around the world, this powerful production is more relevant today than ever, and will leave you deeply moved and enlightened by what you have seen.

PARADE is playing the Everest Theatre, Seymour Theatre until the Saturday 25th May 2024.

There will be a panel discussion after the 5pm performance of the show on  Sunday 19th May

Production photography by Matthew Chen

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