Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals – the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company – with Abigail Trabue.
Patrick Andrews and Brianna Borger in PARADE at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Let’s get something out of the way first. As is the case with, like, nearly every show anybody is writing about right now, you will find heaps of relevancy in Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown’s 1998 musical PARADE, about the lynching of a Jewish man in 1915 Atlanta.
Certainly, the story of a man falsely accused, convicted, commuted, and hung by a mob has lessons written all over it. I wanted to start writing about my recent trip through the south, the bullet holes on the roadsigns, the “war between the states” plaques, but this smartly crafted musical now playing at Writers Theatre, with one of the best scores of the 90s, is, more than anything, a love story.
Brooklyn-born Leo Frank has transplanted to the south where he lives with his wife, Lucille, a rare southern-raised Jewish woman. He is senior management at a pencil factory, where a murder of a young girl is committed. Frank, a man who isn’t saddled with a southern disposition, is the prime suspect — with zero evidence.
He is eventually convicted of the crime, but Lucille steps in to fight for appeals. When she is unsuccessful, she goes as far as accosting the Governor of Georgia at a party.
PARADE, above all, thrusts Lucille Frank — living in a stagnant marriage — into an unenviable situation. She faces an onslaught of deplorable fictions about her husband, and has to choose whether to go away to her sister’s until the trial is sorted out, or to fight for Leo.
She chooses the latter, as she is the only one who can. Lucille and Leo, though married, essentially fall in love through the test forced upon their marriage. And that’s the takeaway from PARADE for me — that a relationship is fairly meaningless until it is tested, and that deep love and understanding are often born from walking through fire together.
Brianna Borger’s nuanced, powerful performance is the driving force behind this production, and Patrick Andrews is a perfect Leo, capturing the often overlooked humor of the role particularly well. Together, their version of “All The Wasted Time” — one of my favorite duets in recent history — is perfection.
Gary Griffin’s whole production is solid, not a sour note, other than those required in Brown’s wonderfully dissonant score. There’s a heck of a lot of role doubling, but the actors handle it very well. I do think some of the choral numbers could have used a few more voices, but that’s a small quibble.
PARADE is just another in a string of world-class productions to Grace Writers’ new home. They should have put in more seats.