Parade | The Merlyn Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse
American playwright Alfred Uhry’s Tony Award-winning musical Parade, presented by BottledSnail Productions, premiered at The Coopers Malthouse in Melbourne on 23 February 2015.
Parade is based on the tragic real-life story of Leo Frank who was unfairly trialled in 1913 for the rape and murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, motivated by media hype and the widespread anti-Semitism of the time. It is set in Georgia against the aftermath of the American civil war and raises the issues of intolerance, injustice and prejudice – issues that are not dissimilar to those faced by asylum seekers and the Muslim community in Australia today.
Lucille Selig, Leo’s wife, played by Alexandra Sutherland, provided a great source of hope, love and strength throughout the play, while at the same time highlighting the issue of gender equality. Selig’s perseverance in stepping outside what society expected of her as a woman in the 1900s eventuated in the re-examination of Leo’s case and the sentencing being changed. Sutherland personified Selig with power and authenticity, along with delivering one of the most memorable songs in the show, “You don’t know this man.”
Sam Pearce brought Hugh Dorsey, the prosecuting attorney in Leo’s trial, to life with his performance. Pearce dominated the stage, as Dorsey is said to have dominated the trial of Leo – he was charismatic, believable and demanded attention, orchestrating the media and instigating fear. It was outstanding.
The court scene was the standout for me: the heavy themes were communicated beautifully onstage under BottledSnail’s artistic director Bruce Hardy’s guidance. Robert Harper’s dynamic performance of Frank reached a high during the song “Come Up to My Office” and James Ao, playing Jim Conley, the janitor and testified accomplice to Frank, delivered a highly entertaining stage-stealing performance with “That’s What He Said.”
Production overall was remarkable. The nine-piece orchestra that lay behind a sheer veil, the choreography and use of stage as well as the set design, costumes and lighting each complimented each other, culminating in a captivating experience. The attention to detail is a testament to the time and effort invested in this production; said to be more than 7,000 hours over nine months!
It is hard to fathom that the performers, production and creatives are mostly lawyers and law students, but it is true – they are seriously talented. BottledSnail Productions is a volunteer-run, non-profit production company providing opportunities for Melbourne’s legal professionals to perform and create. It also lends a novel dynamic to the production that makes the viewing all the more endearing.
Parade is an emotional, thought-provoking production that highlights the heartbreaking consequences intolerance and prejudice can have on humanity, which makes musicals like this and the discussions generated in its aftermath all the more important.
What is raised onstage in our hearts and minds is raised tomorrow in our attitude and in our children’s attitude, in what we accept and what we stand up against.
Parade, by BottledSnail Productions, is on at The Coopers Malthouse until 28 February. More information and tickets available at: http://parade.bottledsnail.com/
RIGHT NOW RADIO
In the February edition of Right Now Radio, Evelyn Tadros met with “Parade” Artistic Director Bruce Hardy and cast member Jacqui Pitt. Check it out below.