Theater Review: Israel Festival Parade

Directed by Moshe Kepten, Musical director Yossi Ben-Nun, Choreographer Oz Morag; Jerusalem Theater, June 9.

Parade 370 (photo credit: Daniel Kaminiski)
Parade 370
(photo credit: Daniel Kaminiski)
Parade is a Tony-winning Broadway musical about a most un-musical subject.
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.
This 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 courage.
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.