Daily Progress : Review: UVa’s ‘Parade’ reigns -

August 14, 2012

Original Story: http://www2.dailyprogress.com/entertainment/2011/oct/07/review-uvas-parade-reigns-ar-1367215/?referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fl.php%3Fu%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fdailyprogress.com%2Far%2F1367215%2F&h=8AQAXZ7oTAQBzRe6QXZHVW7XNg2qyZ50-tuJaN7wWIbESJw&shorturl=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2FnpGrKu

Photo: Credit: Michael Bailey

 

Not all musicals are the same. If you doubt that, check out “Parade,” the University of Virginia Department of Drama’s season opener, now running in the Culbreth.

 

 

Despite the title, don’t expect froth and fluff. “Parade” started with a true story about the death of a 13-year-old girl in early 20th-century Atlanta, and the Jewish man accused of her murder. The title refers to the parade that marked Confederate Memorial Day in oldAtlanta. The show is about race hatred and lies and politics, but also about the growing love between a man and a woman.

 

 

Though it ran just a couple of months on Broadway, “Parade,” originally directed by the legendary HaroldPrince, won the 1999 Tony Awards for best musical and score, as well as a number of other prestigious awards.

 

 

Playwright Alfred Uhry, best known for “Driving Miss Daisy,” wrote the book, with music and lyrics by the young Jason Robert Brown, in his first Broadway show.

 

 

The score is impressive, though it may not be to all tastes. Brown was just 24 when he began work on it, and it is full of contrapuntal duets and difficult ranges. To their credit, most of the UVa cast members have done a fine job with the difficult numbers.

 

 

They were a little slow to warm up on opening night, but that’s to be expected, especially with a cast of more than 30. The large cast requirements, though, make this a very good show for a student production, offering good parts for a variety of types.

 

 

Director Bob Chapel has cast and directed wisely and well. Fourth-year drama major Gavin Rohrer is very good in the difficult role of Leo Frank, the factory superintendent accused of the murder, and Mia Joshi is equally as good as his wife.

 

 

Rohrer is especially moving when he defends himself in “It’s Hard to Speak My Heart,” and he and Joshi do a nice job of developing their relationship as events progress.

 

 

The score is sometimes dissonant, making it all the more challenging for the young performers, who are no doubt greatly helped by Greg Harris’ musical direction. Most handle the challenges well.

 

 

Phillip Rodgers is exceptional as Jim Conley, the African-American man who testifies falsely that he helpedFrank cover up the murder. Rodgers has two songs, one in each act, and he’s a standout in both.

 

 

Daniel Prillaman also is outstanding as Hugh Dorsey, the slimy and ambitious prosecuting attorney.

 

 

The whole cast can be proud of good performances in a very difficult production.

 

 

Chapel has pulled out all the technical stops to back up his cast with a sumptuous and flexible set by Tom Bloom beautifully and subtly lit by R. Lee Kennedy, and with complementary sound by Max Krembs. Dorothy Smith’s costumes are gorgeous, and Alexandra Johnson’s choreography is very well done.

 

 

This show may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is well done, especially for a primarily student production.