Theater Review: Israel Festival Parade
Directed by Moshe Kepten, Musical director Yossi Ben-Nun, Choreographer Oz Morag; Jerusalem Theater, June 9.
Israel Festival production of 'Parade' Photo: Daniel Kaminiski
Parade is a Tony-winning Broadway musical about a most un-musical
Right from the start, form and content are at odds. It tells the
true and terrible story of the arrest, trial, conviction and hanging in 1915 of
a young Jewish man for the rape and murder of a 13- year-old girl, a murder he
did not commit.
The man was Leo Frank, the girl Mary Phagan, an employee
at the pencil factory of which he was the superintendent.
There are two
overlapping tracks here. The first is the cursed double helix of prejudice and
racism that traps its own adherents in hate. The second is the growing mutual
appreciation and love between Frank and Lucille, his Southern- bred wife who
stands by him through all the horror.
The story is told mostly through
the music that ranges from ballad to uptempo to gospel. It grabs you, from the
young soldier’s patriotic hymn to his native Georgia as he goes off to fight for
the Confederacy in the 1861-65 Civil War, to the chillingly ironic finale of
another confederate Memorial Day Parade after Frank’s execution.
Parade is an Israel Festival production presented in English with US, UK and
Israeli actors, and it was a great show.
Bambi Friedman’s set sites the
action against a faded painting of a Confederate flag inset with doors. The
two-level stage is bare with the actor-singers themselves bringing on props and
furniture as needed. It works a treat, as do Yuval Caspin’s costumes and
Fernando Mai Jeiker’s lights.
Because of long tradition, US and UK
musicals actors have that extra bit of zip and showmanship that is still
developing here. Their voices have that bright edge, too.
The beauty of
Alfred Uhry’s script is that that both Leo and Lucille grow, not just together,
but up. Alastair Crookshaw (UK) and Kelsey Crouch (US) movingly conveyed their
characters’ development from a kind of selfish petulance to painful
Adam Chandler (US) displayed a vicious charm as Frankie, Mary
Phagan’s boyfriend. Cooper Grodin’s (US) Governor Slaton was perfectly
political, but we believed him when he finally found his resolve while Stephan
Duret (US) gave us a breezy, brassy, desperationedged Jim Conley – the real life
Conley was probably the murderer.
Of the Israelis, Ido Bartal shone
particularly as prosecutor Dorsey, with the rest of a large local cast, mostly
students from Yoram Loewenstein’s Studio, hot on his heels.