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Review of PARADE at London Theatre Workshop

Parade at London Theatre Workshop - Photos (c) Cameron Slater Photography
Parade at London Theatre Workshop – Cameron Slater Photography (c)

Parade is a rare treat of a night out in Fringe Theatre. So often the understandable limits of space and money mean that a production is more of a template of what can be than the full caboodle. London Theatre Workshop’s production of Parade is a brilliant passionate spectacle where every member of the ensemble cast sings, acts and dances their giant hearts out. It’s a loud, energetic, fearless and passionately performed piece of musical theatre. They genuinely fill up the whole room and create something wonderful.

The story’s based on real life events in Atlanta and covers unusual ground for musical theatre; racism, anti-Semitism, child-murder, mob mentality, brutality and the longing for a decent cup of Brooklyn coffee. It should be unbearably depressing but the pace and the extraordinary writing of both book and score mean that this is often heart-breaking but always riveting and mostly highly entertaining theatre. It is more Sondheim than Lloyd Webber.

The cast are amazing – just to be clear they all commit themselves to this show with passion and gusto. From the opening choral number right the way through to closing, every single one of them was on point and believable. There’s some tough acting in this musical too – it calls on a huge amount of talent to sing, cry, fight and manipulate and they all rise to the challenge. I really don’t think it would be fair to single anyone out – of course I had some favourite performances, but there’s no one in this ensemble not carrying their weight. And watching the group scenes is especially delightful. They are all truly amazing.

You have to feel for Lucille (Lily De-La-Haye) wishing for more, and then getting more than anyone would wish for. She’s a brilliantly written character and so gorgeously performed in this production. The questions that I had about why Lucille would fall for Leo (Ross Barnes) are all gradually answered, there’s a delicious moment where Leo slips from his skin to perform ‘Come up to my Office.’ In fact there is something in every number that uplifts or captivates, during ‘It don’t make sense,’ there were tears from both audience and cast, and the standing ovation at the end was well deserved.

Parade is an old story in many ways, but the themes are so contemporary it feels fresh – corrupt politicians, problems for incoming migrants, the desire to punish the outsider and the difficulties of trying to fit in to a place where you don’t belong. I should mention the live band who are flawless, and the fantastic thoughtful and dynamic direction (Jody Tranter) and just marvellous choreography (Adam Scown). Harry Johnson and Justin Williams set is so creative and used to full effect and never imposes, but supports the story. In fact, everything from the lighting design, costume and cast is meticulously crafted, to create this fantastic evening of musical theatre. There’s so much talent here. I really hope this production lives longer than the scheduled 13 day run. It’s truly spectacular.

5 Star Rating

Review by Roz Wyllie

Parade at London Theatre Workshop | Trailer

1st to 13th September
Tuesday to Sunday 7.30pm
Matinee Saturday and Sunday 3pm
Tickets £15
For a strictly-limited two week run, this exciting new revival will utilise the intimacy of London Theatre Workshop’s space with a talented and versatile cast of thirteen actors in multiple roles. Originally staged on Broadway and in London at the Donmar Warehouse, the multi-Olivier nominated show features music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, the virtuosic composer of “Last Five Years” “Songs For a New World” “The Bridges of Madison County” and book by Academy Award winner Alfred Uhry, screenplay writer of “Driving Miss Daisy”.

Parade is based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager from Brooklyn accused of the murder of a 13 year old employee. Set in Atlanta, Georgia at the beginning of the twentieth century, the story builds around Leo Frank’s trial as it becomes sensationalised by the bigoted, zionistic press, against a backdrop of National uncertainty and change.

The Broadway production of ‘Parade’ was garnered with two Tony awards for Best Book and Best Music as well as the Best New Musical at the Drama Desk and The New York Drama Critic’s Circle Awards.

Friday 4th September 2015


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