Parade at Writers Theatre: more relevant now than ever

Parade at Writers Theatre: more relevant now than ever
Patrick Andrews is Leo Frank and Brianna Borger is his wife, Lucille, in the Writers Theatre production of Jason Robert Brown's musical, "Parade." (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

There are many things I love about the South including grits and shrimp along with my husband--a bred and born Louisiana boy.

There are other things, not so much. And although the South has changed a lot since the early 20th century--there are still pockets of prejudice in the South and throughout the country--yes Chicago, even you--that are disturbing.

Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown's musical "Parade"  with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, co-conceived by Harold Prince in its current remount at Writers Theatre makes this perfectly clear.

Writers' powerful new production directed by Gary Griffin with musical direction by Michael Mahler and choreography by Ericka Mac is arguably even more relevant today than when it was first written--with anti-Semitism, racial discrimination, and political corruption rearing its ugly head in social media, on the streets and behind-the-scenes way too often in today's America.

"Parade" explores it all through a historical lens focusing on the 1913 true story of Leo Frank, a target of prejudice, ignorance and political ambition.

The story...

What's a Jewish boy from Brooklyn to do when he lands in 1910 Atlanta...and WHY!

In a city that still hasn't recovered from the Civil War...and marches to a different drummer...Leo Frank (Patrick Andrews), has come to Atlanta to be a supervisor at his uncle's pencil factory.

He soon discovers that the South is very different from the North. Even the Jews are different.

His wife, Lucille (Brianna Borger), to whom he has been married for three years when the story opens on Memorial Day, 1913 is a Southern Jew.

Lucille is trying to convince Leo to take off work to go with her to the Memorial Day parade. Not just any Memorial Day parade but the Confederate Memorial Day Parade.

Instead, he goes to work. Hours later he finds himself accused of murdering an employee of his factory--a 13-year-old girl who is found dead on the premises.

A musical may seem like a strange format to bring this story to life...this is not the "Sound of Music," this is about the trial and lynching of a wrongly accused Jew--nothing to sing about.

But the musical format works beautifully with a talented cast of singers and musicians bringing the story of hate, ambition, prejudice and ignorance juxtaposed with a compelling love story alive.

Jonathan Butler-Duplessis plays Jim Conley in the Writers Theatre production of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, “Parade.” | Michael Brosilow)

Jonathan Butler-Duplessis plays Jim Conley in the Writers Theatre production of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, “Parade.” | Michael Brosilow

Writers "Parade" comes complete with a first-rate cast, outstanding direction and a talented design team to showcase this very important story in the best possible way.

The cast of Parade includes: Larry Adams (Old Soldier/Judge Roan/Ensemble), Patrick Andrews (Leo Frank), Brianna Borger (Lucille Frank), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Jim Conley), McKinley Carter (Mrs. Phagan/Sally Slaton), Devin DeSantis (Britt Craig/Young Soldier/Ensemble), Kevin Gudahl (Hugh Dorsey/Ensemble), Derek Hasenstab (Governor John Slaton/Ensemble), Nicole Michelle Haskins (Minola "Minnie" McKnight/Angela), Caroline Heffernan (Mary Phagan/Essie/Ensemble), Zoe Nadal (Monteen/Ensemble), Jake Nicholson (Frankie Epps/Ensemble), Jeff Parker (Tom Watson/Ensemble), Leryn Turlington (Iola Stover/Ensemble), and Jonah D. Winston (Newt Lee/Riley).

 The creative team includes: Matt Deitchman (Associate Music Director & Piano/Conductor), Scott Davis (Scenic Designer),Mara Blumenfeld (Costume Designer), Christine Binder (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer) and Scott Dickens (Properties Master). Bobby Kennedy is the Dramaturg, David Castellanos is the Production Stage Manager and Nick Moran is the CFM Contractor.

This production is definitely worth the trip to Glencoe.

When: Extended through July 9

Where: Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes

Tickets: $35 to $80

Rating: 4 Stars

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Filed under: Theater in Chicago

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