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Parade - Southwark Playhouse

Parade

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

A MAJOR London revival of the acclaimed Broadway musical Parade will run for a six-week season at Southwark Playhouse (The Vault) – from Wednesday, August 10 to Saturday, September 17, 2011.

Parade centres on a true incident – the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The trial, sensationalised by the US media, aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the state of Georgia.

Frank’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison by the departing Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton, following the latter’s detailed review of over 10,000 pages of testimony and possible problems with the trial.

As a result, Frank was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where he was kidnapped by a lynching party who took him to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta. There, he was hanged from an oak tree.

The events surrounding the investigation and trial led to the emergence of two groups – the revival of the defunct KKK and the birth of the Jewish Civil Rights organisation.

Parade covers the trial, and also dramatises the love story between Leo and his wife Lucille, at the same time subtley examining class, race relations and prejudice in the Deep South.

Parade, by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Alfred Uhry and award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, was nominated for nine Tony Awards on its premiere in 1998 – winning Best Book and Best Score. It subsequently won both the Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best New Musical.

Alfred Uhry said: “Southern extended families are prone to telling stories and so are Jewish ones. Mine was both, so I got a double dose. I grew up hearing about the quirks of distant relatives, in-laws, and a whole network of people I didn’t know. They all came with stories attached. But nobody mentioned Leo Frank. Some of the family even walked out of the room if the name came up.

“I found this confusing, because I knew that my Great Uncle Sig had been his employer, and Lucille Frank was my grandmother’s friend. Due to this hush-hush policy, I developed a fascination for the case, which has lasted all these years and which led to the idea for Parade.”

Jason Robert Brown has been hailed as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim”. His productions include The Last 5 Years, Songs for a New World and Urban Cowboy The Musical.

The Southwark Playhouse production of Parade will be directed by Thom Southerland, who was named Best Director at the 2011 Off West End Theatre Awards (Offies) for Me and Juliet at Finborough Theatre. His other work includes the European premiere of I Sing!, Divorce Me, Darling!, Annie Get Your Gun, The Pajama Game and sold-out all-male adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore and The Mikado (all at the Union Theatre).

He also directed the European premiere of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Landor Theatre), Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam! (Upstairs at the Gatehouse) and the European premiere of State Fair (Finbourough Theatre and Trafalgar Studios).

Parade will be choreographed by Tim Jackson, who is currently in rehearsal for The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd at Finborough Theatre. His other credits include The Kissing Dance (Jermyn Street Theatre), Austentatious (Landor Theatre), Blood Wedding (Southwark Playhouse) and The Marriage of Figaro (Wilton’s Music Hall).

The production will have musical direction by Michael Bradley, currently on tour with Spring Awakening; design by John Risebero (Caroline O’Connor: The Showgirl Within, Garrick Theatre, Christmas In New York, Prince of Wales and Lyric Theatres); lighting by Howard Hudson, who received the 2011 Offie Award for Best Lighting Design for Tomorrow Morning at the Landor Theatre and Me and Juliet at Finborough Theatre; and sound by Theo Holloway.

Casting has yet to be announced.

Parade will be produced by Danielle Tarento, who recently produced the sell-out Company at Southwark Playhouse. She is co-founder of the Menier Chocolate Factory and co-produced all in-house shows from 2004 to 2006, including Sunday In The Park With George, which received a West End transfer and five Olivier Awards.

Tickets: £10 – £22.50 (‘Airline style’ pricing, the earlier you book the cheaper the tickets) – available from the box office on 020 7407 0234 or at www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday matinee at 3pm.