Los Angeles Theater Review: PARADE (Chance Theater)

by Tony Frankel on July 26, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

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The emotionally pile-driving Parade by bookwriter Alfred Uhry and composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown reprises an ugly and evergreen tragedy. Their driven musical chronicles the reflexive racism that, a century ago, doomed a suspect stranger, Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew in 1914 Atlanta. Here the bigotry is anti-Semitism, a xenophobia that ironically unites blacks and whites in a feeding frenzy. The title sardonically refers to the Memorial Day Parade that was backdrop to a civic disgrace fueled by fear, ignorance and scapegoating. If it sounds depressing it’s not, especially given Chance Theater’s terrific revival, bolstered by Kari Hayter’s choreographically brilliant direction, and a central performance by the astounding Allen Everman, a doppelganger to the real-lfe Frank; Everman is hands down one of the best fits of actor to role that I have ever seen.

Reluctantly journeying to Georgia to manage a pencil firm, detesting the crackers who surround him, Frank is immediately accused of rape and murder when the body of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan (Gabrielle Adner) is found on this horror-filled holiday. The case against him is circumstantial at best—but it’s much stronger against Jim Conley (a powerful Robert Collins), the plant’s black janitor whose perjury will help to convict Frank. Of course, prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (a slimy Chris Kerrigan) could indict the real killer. But that’s too easy: He has bigger fish to fry. Hanging an innocent Jew will garner more publicity than convicting a guilty black man—a virtual cake walk in Jim Crow Georgia.

Spurred on by a vitriolic, circulation-boosting newspaper campaign and by fundamentalist Christians reviling this “Christ killer,” Dorsey suborns witness testimony, turning the trial into a Kafkaesque kangaroo court. Frank, whose disdain for the proceedings is taken as proof of guilt, receives no palpable defense. Incredibly, according to Georgia law, this sacrificial innocent is denied the right to defend himself, other than to make an impassioned plea.

Condemning the lone victim is a ton of toxic testimony—lies from Mary’s supposed boyfriend Frankie (an immensely likeable Dillon Klena), tearful accusations by her mother (the wonderfully controlled Laura M. Hathaway), and prevarications from the shop girls (Madeline Ellingson, Alissa Finn, Madison Miller) about Leo’s craving for Christian virgins. Leo gets conditional support from his frightened but stalwart wife Lucille (Erica Schaeffer), a Southerner who suddenly sees the darkness of Dixie, and from Governor John Slaton (Tucker Boyes), uncomfortable with the trial’s rush to judgment and the torrent of national criticism triggered by a sanctioned hate crime.

Inspired by a score that ranges from soaring anthems (“The Dream of Atlanta”) to ragtime romps (“Pretty Music”), Robyn Manion’s musical direction does rich justice to Brown’s supple songs. Chance’s attractive, 18-member mainly non-Equity ensemble honors every number with full-throated ardor and combustible conviction.

photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Chance Theater
5522 E. La Palma in Anaheim
ends on July 30, 2017Chance EXTENDED to August 13, 2017
for tickets, call 888.455.4212 or visit

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

James Hoyt-McDaniels July 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm

If you saw the revival at the Mark Taper Forum a few years ago, how did this compare?


Tony Frankel July 28, 2017 at 12:47 am

I did, and this is wholly different. The Chance was staged in the style of 70’s theatre — a wooden raked stage and a lot of chairs. This one had more of an immediacy and a kind of energetic innocence — and a larger ensemble. The Taper was very scaled back. It’s apples and oranges, but I liked Allen Everman at the Chance much more than the Taper’s T.R. Knight.


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