2015 Parade

Jason Robert Brown

Alfred Uhry

"So good, I could quite happily watch the show every night this week"

"One word - Wow! Incredible show guys, well done"

"With hand-on-heart stuff, the stirring ensemble, Old Red Hills opens and closes the show reflecting the spirit of fighting for American pride and the sentiments of homeland"

"Very slick production with all strong cast and cracking singing, had a cry"

"This is an interesting, gripping and well-staged production with well-executed performances throughout"

"You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as you know everyone was completley immersed in the racial and political tensions of Atlanta"

Spring 2015

Parade tells the heart-wrenching, true story of Leo Frank: a Brooklyn-raised Jewish man living in Atlanta who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of his thirteen-year-old employee, Mary Phagan, in 1913. Because Frank’s trial was replete with faulty testimony and lacked any clear evidence, Georgia’s governor eventually commuted his sentence from death to life imprisonment. Despite this ruling, a lynch mob hanged Frank in Mary Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia. The momentous case drew national attention to Anti-Semitism, and was pivotal to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as well as the reviving of the Ku Klux Klan in the South. With a characteristically rich, intricate, and wide-ranging score penned by Jason Robert Brown, and a bold willingness to dive into the complexities of early 20th century social relationships in the South, Parade is a sophisticated, dark tale with endless depths for a highly skilled company of actors and musicians to plumb.


Leo Frank - Russell Hawkins
Lucille Frank - Charlie Qureshi
Hugh Dorsey - Damien de Roche
Tom Watson - Anthony Trott
Britt Craig - Richard Qureshi
Frankie Epps - Peter Wheeler
Jim Conley - Daniel Haswell
Minola "Minnie" McKnight - Jennifer Bye
Mary Phagan - Olivia Wilson
Iola Stover - Becky Bond
Monteen - Courtney Harrington
Essie - Eloise Brown
Mrs Phagan - Monica Wallis
Governor Slaton - Chris Evans
Old Soldier - Rick Thompsett
Old Lila - Linda Sutch
Young Soldier - Peter Hartley
Young Lila - Nicola Howlett
Luther Rosser - Crispian Shepley
Newt Lee - Eddie Hinds
Riley - Tyrone Haywood
Angela - Juliana Anderiesz
Judge Roan - Keith Robertshaw
Detective Starnes - Chris Haslett
Officer Ivey - Russell Thompson
Mrs Sally Slaton - Kathryn Fletcher
Mr Peavy - Crispian Shepley

Prison Guards/Policemen
Daniel Crego- Bustelo
Chris Rumbold

Factory Girls
Rebeca Cenamor
Emily Evans
Nicola Howlett
Grace McNulty- Brown
Lorraine Nuthall
Charlotte Verrill
Hannah Wade
Imogen Wallis

Aimee Clark
Paul Featherstone
Penny Hanham
Albert Helg
Charlie Hoddell
Jill Howlett
Louise Laithwaite
Julie Parker
Dilip Patel
Diana Springate
Karen Wilson
Freddie Wilson
Ruby Wilson
Sandra Zeffman


James Fortune

Dennis Hooker

Helen Parker


Promotional Video

Show Week Video


Jon Fox

Great musicals come in many forms. The truly great shows leave their mark long after leaving the theatre. They have glorious music and songs, usually great dance and company production numbers and, above all, a believable story. "Parade" has the priceless advantage of being a true story, albeit one of hate, ignorance, prejudice and cruelty. The "Parade" of the title alludes to Confederate Memorial Day an annual celebration in the southern states of America.

Set between 1913 - 1915 in the state of Georgia, some 50 years after the end of the American Civil War, the plot revolves around the arrest, trial, imprisonment and eventual lynching of a Jewish New Yorker, Leo Frank, and his wife Lucille's efforts to free him. Leo was a factory superintendent and, after a young 13 year old female employee was found brutally murdered in his factory on Confederate Memorial Day 1913, the townspeople bring huge pressure on the soon outgoing state Governor of Georgia to convict someone.

This gritty show's authenticity was largely due to the realistic portrayal by all the main characters. The two leads Russell Hawkins and Charlie Qureshi as Leo and Lucille Frank respectively, gave bravura performances and quickly gained the audience's sympathy. Russell imbued Leo with an intense frustration after his arrest and Charlie gave a steeliness of purpose to the slender frame of Lucille. Her persistence with Governor Slaton at the Tea Dance was powerful stuff as was her singing in "Do it Alone".

The prosecutor, Atlanta's District Attorney Hugh Dorsey (later becoming the State Governor), was played by Damien de Roche. Anti-semitism being rife in the state, Dorsey, who was powerful and charismatic, was determined to convict Leo at all costs. Damien brought this deeply unpleasant character to life extremely well.

Newt Lee, the black factory night watchman who discovered the body, was other initial suspect and it is implied that he was the actual killer. Eddie Hinds played this troubled character with skill.

Young Olivia Wilson was the murdered teenager Mary Phagan and Peter Wheeler her boyfriend Frankie Epps, full of vengeance and fury at her death. Both were authentic. You could feel the raw emotion during Mary's funeral sequence and her mother's grief was palpable. Monica Wallis as Mrs Phagan acted the part wonderfully and sang her song "My Child will forgive me" with tremendous emotion.

Three powerful performances were given by Anthony Trott, Richard Qureshi and Keith Robertshaw as Tom Watson, Britt Craig and Judge Roan respectively.

Jennifer Bye was Minnie McKnight, the Frank's servant and a sympathetic character who, however, lied at Leo's trial. She played this "put upon" part with rare emotion. An enjoyable part. Daniel Haswell as Jim Conley, a convict, is an actor to watch. he sang "That's what He Said" and the blues song "Feel the Rain Fall" with a rare emotion and animal magnetism that marks him out as a rising star. I expect to hear more about this young man.

Crispian Shepley played Luther Rosser, Leo Frank's largely ineffective Attorney and also Mr Peavy convincingly. Chris Evans was Governor Slaton whose conscience eventually led him to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. He carried great stage presence throughout.

Becky Bond, Courtney Harrington and Eloise Brown were Iola Stover, Monteen and Essie, poor Mary's friends at the factory showing their anger, grief and frustration quite naturally. Yet even they were prepared to lie in their court testimony with the song "Up to my Office".

Rick Thompsett was an old Soldier in a wheelchair suitably troubled by his heroics in the Civil War half a century earlier and determined to help convict the Jewish Yankee. His wife Lila was played by Linda Sutch. The same characters as young people were played by Peter Hartley and Nicola Howlett.

The director James Fortune really understood and brought out the theatricality of this show and made the audience really think in depth. The scenes flowed naturally, helped by the minimal set used throughout. The factory, court and jail scenes were skilfully put together and the prominent tree from which Leo Frank was hanged built the tension to an almost unbelievable pitch.

Music and singing were of a high standard thanks to the sterling efforts of Musical Director Dennis Hooker. I was not familiar with the music, but found much of it moving and touching. "The Old Red Hills of Home" (part 1 and 2), "It don't make Sense", "Real Big news" and "It's Hard to Speak my Heart" stood out. Pretty evocative music throughout, sung with real and raw emotion.

There were some well choreographed musical scenes under the eagle eye of Helen Parker. the Tea Dance was beautifully done and I especially liked "Where will You Stand when the Flood Comes?" "Real Big News" featuring the chorus holding up newspaper headlines must have been a challenge - it was highly effective. A youngish company ensured some nimble movements and they were very well choreographed.

Lighting by designer Simon banks was cleverly used throughout the show and the energy and buzz of the townsfolk to help convict Leo, even by lying in court as many did, built the sense of injustice. Scenery was designed by the Stage Manager Sarah Wood and Director James Fortune. Kris Benjafield supplied the costumes and Jo Epps co-ordinated to great effect.

A special mention must go to the informative and detailed programme in newspaper format - the best I have seen this year. NODA awards are given to the best programme for the whole year.

My partner Sue and I were treated like royalty and I am extremely grateful to ELOC's hospitality and welcome. This was an extremely well directed, sung, and choreographed show of which the company and dedicated production team should be rightfully proud.

Deborah Harris

Parade uses soulful tunes to tackle tough themes of racism and romance in early 1900s America. Deborah Harris is enthralled at the Epsom Playhouse, where it's showing until April 25

Set in Atlanta, Georgia in 1913, Parade is a powerful and darkly chilling musical based on the true, brutal murder of factory worker, Mary Phagan (Olivia Wilson) - her bloody body slung into the basement. This leads to the subsequent arrest of her boss and superintendent of the factory, Leo Frank (Russell Hawkins) convicted and subsequently hanged by a web of lies and stirred up lynch-mob mass hysteria in the courtroom and local community. Leo's crime? Being a Jew and therefore an outsider.

Winner of The Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score in 2000, this musical portrays themes of racism, false testimony, rough justice and political bigotry and won acclaim for its richly daring and deeply emotive score laced with soulful influences of rhythm, blues and gospel.

With hand-on-heart stuff, the stirring ensemble, Old Red Hills opens and closes the show reflecting the spirit of fighting for American pride and the sentiments of homeland.

The second half of the production explores how Leo's two year imprisonment and struggle to save him from being hanged brings him emotionally closer to his wife, Lucille (Charlie Quresh) as she fights "tooth and nail" for his release. Both Leo and Lucille possess beautiful, sweeping voices which are ideally suited to their roles. Lucille, in particular excels with a simple quality of honest charm.

Lit by a swinging chandelier, the toe-tapping, ankle-turning ballroom scene captures the era of "flouncing" southern belles ball. A quirky rendition of the "Grizzly Bear" performed with a partner neatly demonstrates the slightly crazy trend for the dancer becoming an animal!

The production's dramatic climax occurs when its decided that Leo needs to be hanged in true Southern style from a noose on a tree. Like a chapter from The Crucible he's forced to confess to sins that he didn't commit.

History documents the fact that Leo Frank was posthumously pardoned in 1986. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parols describes their actions as "an effort to heal old wounds" without absolving him of his crimes.

This is an interesting, gripping and well-staged production with well-executed performances throughout. So good, I could quite happily watch the show every night this week.


Chris Abbott

This was an enterprising choice for a company that have begun interspersing new and less-known pieces among the Gilbert & Sullivan operas and well-known musicals on which they built their reputation.

Parade is a difficult show to produce successfully but it has much to offer a large cast, with many roles and plenty for the chorus to do. Casting is key however, and not many societies would be able to meet those challenges as the Epsom Light Opera Company were able to do.

Once I eventually obtained my ticket it was good to see the house almost full with enthusiastic supporters.

The rather low-key and slightly confusing prologue that began the production was made clearer through the always-helpful surtitles that were used throughout to indicate timescales and locations. This was a very sensible response on the part of the director to a book that needs such help.

Once the Civil War was left behind and we found ourselves in the early years of the Twentieth Century, the tone became much clearer and the arrival of the townspeople introduced us to a chorus whose singing and dancing was of a high standard throughout.

In a large cast there were no weak links, but inevitably some performers made their mark more than others. In the central roles of the accused and his wife, Russell Hawkins and Charlie Qureshi were an entirely convincing couple, their relationship building to the tragic conclusion in the second act. So often in light opera the singing is more convincing than the acting, but this was certainly not the case here; and Hawkins in particular had to carry much of the action from beginning to end, with Damien de Roche highly effective as his nemesis.

Others who made their mark included Peter Wheeler as Frankie Epps. Not the largest of parts and with little to do in Act Two, but this was an engaging performance by a young actor who has a confidence that belies his years. Chris Evans as Governor Slaton was entirely convincing bringing a triple threat to his performance. Daniel Haswell as Jim Conley owned the stage whenever he appeared, and bought an authentic feel to the swagger of this character, crucial to the plot it would seem although Alfred Uhry's book never really establishes the nature of this.

Jason Robert Brown's music and lyrics deserve to be heard more widely and it is to be hoped that more groups will consider this show. It is very episodic and needs an abstract approach, with only limited sets and much use of lighting to suggest location and mood. This was the approach taken by James Fortune as Director, and for the most part this worked well, although perhaps the stage hands moving trucks could do so in lower light levels rather than being fully lit as was often the case.

Choreography by Helen Parker was excellent and in keeping with the period. The hardworking Musical Director, Dennis Hooker, was all alone in the orchestra pit, with keyboards and headphones and working closely with the sound design of Stuart Vaughan.