CELIA IPIOTIS REVIEWS "PARADE"
There are many reasons to see Parade, but experiencing Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond should top that list. Few voices convey humanity like Platt's silky, seamless sound or Diamond's intelligent compassion. Based on a true story, Parade unfolds in 1915 Georgia (one year after the start of WWI). An unlikely man in an unlikely location, Leo (Platt) holds the position of manager at a pencil factory, courtesy of his wife's uncle. Eager to hustle back to his Brooklyn neighborhood, Leo remains aloof from his workers and community.
Contrary to Leo, Lucille (Diamond), born and bred in Georgia, has eased into the rhythms and mores of Southern society. One ominous day, a young 13-year old worker Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle) is found murdered in the factory. Although the factory employed Blacks as well as whites, the politically influenced district attorney (a fine Paul Alexander Nolan) is convinced that framing a Jew is more politically useful than convicting a Black.
Up to this point, Lucille's most prominent characteristic is invisibility. She cares for the house, deals with the "help" but as for Leo, he remains wholly self-centered and disengaged. After Leo is incarcerated, Lucille, who at first considers leaving town, blossoms into his tireless champion.
Stripped of unnecessary visuals, the set, consisting of a couple of platforms by Dane Laffrey, suggests all the interior and exterior scenes with the simple addition of furniture -- like table and chairs, a podium -- and the audience's imagination.
A superb soundtrack by Jason Robert Brown lifts Alfred Uhry's book. Director Michael Arden keeps up a spirited pace while Brown's music unlocks each character's emotions through incisive lyrics and transporting songs. Arden's knack for harmonizing story, score and cast into an appetizing alchemy explodes in the most understated, unnerving way.
Surrounded by an artful cast, Georgia's Governor Slaton (the congenial Sean Allan Krill) reconsiders the unlikeliness of Leo murdering Mary. Nudged by Lucille and supported by his loving wife, Slaton represents the conscience of Georgia.
Of course, this story of false evidence leading to a wrongful conviction continues through the ages. Indeed, the anti semitic and racist hostilities in our country and beyond underscore the vigilance required to keep America honest.
Robed in the past, Parade feels contemporary in its fear of the "outsider" and
justice as political expediency.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis