Book by Alfred Uhry
Music and Lyrucs by Jason Robert Brown
at the Epsom Playhouse
Director - James Fortune
Music Director - Dennis Hooker
Choreographer - Helen Parker
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
In 1913, Leo Frank, a Jewish man from Brooklyn has emigrated to Georgia, where he runs a pencil factory. He does not feel he fits into the still prejudiced town ("How Can I Call This Home?"). His wife Lucille plans a picnic, but Leo decides to go into work on his day off. Two teenagers in the town, Frankie Epps and Mary Phagan head to "The Picture Show," but first she stops by the factory to collect her pay cheque. Two policeman arrive at Leo's house and bring him to the factory, where they reveal Mary, who has been raped and murdered in the basement. The prime suspect is Newt Lee, an African-American night watchman who discovered the body. Over the course of the "Interrogation," he says he is innocent, and causes the police to suspect Leo when he says he did not receive an answer when he called Leo's house upon discovering the body. The police arrest Leo, and news of the case begins to spread through the shocked town.
A few people in town begin to see the case as an opportunity to shine. Journalist Britt Craig sees it as the biggest story to come along in years. Governor Slaton calls the town's prosecutor Hugh Dorsey and advises him he had better come up with a conviction no matter what. A right-wing newspaper writer, Tom Watson, decides he will cover the story with an anti-Semite slant, and Frankie vows revenge on whoever killed Mary.
Though the evidence seems to indicate that Newt committed the crime, Dorsey decides they've already hanged enough African- Americans and focuses the case on Leo because he is Jewish. Meanwhile, Luther Z. Rosser takes on Leo's case and promises to set him free. Lucille is flustered by the situation but stands behind Leo at his trial.
Craig and Watson have successfully engineered a campaign of hate against Leo before the trial has even begun. In court, Dorsey has arranged a number of witnesses to testify falsely against Leo. Frankie says that Mary mentioned Leo looking at her strangely before she was killed. Three teenage girls who work at the factory each claim that Leo made sexual advances on them ("Come Up to My Office"). Finally, an ex-convict, Jim Conley who briefly worked at the factory is given immunity from prosecution of his own crimes for claiming he helped Leo cover up Mary's murder.
Leo is mortified at the number of people who have been found to falsely testify against him, and he makes a passionate speech maintaining his innocence ("It's Hard to Speak My Heart"). Nevertheless, he is found guilty and sentenced to death.
Rosser immediately appeals the verdict, and the case becomes the cause of public outrage in the North given its clearly prejudiced nature. Lucille goes to Governor Slaton to plead for help, and meanwhile Dorsey decides to run for governor against the incumbent. The Governor agrees to hear the appeal. He first finds the factory girls who admit they made their stories up. He visits Jim Conley, who has wound up in jail as an accessory to the murder, who refuses to recant his testimony.
The Governor decides to commute Leo's sentence to life in prison given the lack of evidence against him. Leo regrets "All the Wasted Time" he spent at the factory instead of with Lucille. Furious at the Governor's decision, a mob descends on the jail and kidnaps Leo determined to carry out the sentence rendered upon him by the state of Georgia. Lucille is devastated but relieved that Leo's horrific experience is finally over and that he is in a better place.
|James Fortune, Director
As a director, I am lucky to have worked with THE best company in the South East, Epsom Light Opera Company, twice before, with 'The Witches of Eastwick' and 'Titanic - The Musical', and both times we received the coveted NODA Award for Excellence. They are a talented group of actors, singers and dancers and working with them results in very powerful theatre. I knew that directing 'Parade' would be a challenge. As Brits, we don't understand why the Southern part of the United States still celebrates Confederate Memorial Day even though they lost the war! We don't understand the hate they still have for people who come from the North, the Yankees, because of that war. And we don't understand their racial, religious and social intolerances. It's easy to condemn Southern people as bigots and Hillbillies but to do that ignores the very powerful concept of Southern Pride. 'Parade' covers some very unpleasant issues, yes, but theatre is not just about entertainment, it is also about asking the audience to think. I was determined that nothing should be allowed to detract from the narrative, so there's no interruptions, minimal scenery - using the audience's creative mind to fill in 'place' and 'time' - there is no more expressive or powerful force. 'Parade' is a musical. A musical to think about. A musical to move you and I hope you love every moment.
Dennis Hooker, Musical Director
'Parade's' musical score invites us to be moved by its human story, highlighting the issues and the emotions of those involved. Beautiful songs and dramatic ensemble pieces abound, some with different rhythms being played simultaneously. You may also notice at one point a tune being played with an accompaniment in a different key. As always these techniques are used not merely to be clever but rather to illustrate important elements of the story.
'Parade' contains some of the most original and beautiful music I have come across in a modern-day musical. Some have found that its music haunts them long after the show has ended. I hope some of you will agree.
Helen Parker, Choreographer
The early 20th century brought some rather intriguing and quite radical styles of dances. First there was the 'Cake Walk' which quickly advanced and became more 'ragged' like and quicker in tempo. Then there was the 'Castle Walk' which again is very quick and the dancers must move at a considerable pace on the balls of their feet. People of this period also liked a little 'Tango' from time to time. Who doesn't like a little head flick here and there? And last, but by no means least, we see a rather crazier form of movement where the dancer becomes an animal! Who would have thought that back in the early 1900's we would see couples performing the 'Turkey Trot' and the 'Grizzly Bear' moves in a ballroom? That's what I love about dancing. There are so many styles of dance it is always so much fun diving into the past and bringing these quirky routines back to life. So in this truly heart-pounding musical, see if you can spot these radical moves.
|Leo and Lucille Frank (Russell Hawkins, Charlie Qureshi)
Leo Frank is a Jewish American born in Texas in April 1884. Brought up in New York, Leo attended public schools and graduated from Pratt Institute in 1902. He then studied mechanical engineering at University and after a nine - month apprenticeship in Germany, returned to the United States to work at the National Pencil Company in August 1908. After 2 months, Leo became superintendent of the factory. Leo is president of the local B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organisation, and is popular in his small Hebrew circle.
Lucille Frank (nee. Selig) was born in Atlanta in February 1888 and came from a prominent upper class Jewish family of industrialists who founded the first synagogue in Atlanta. Leo was introduced to Lucille shortly after he arrived in Atlanta, and had an arranged marriage in November 1910. The marriage enabled Leo to position himself for ascending up through the ranks of Jewish social status and power in the New South.
|Dorsey, Watson, Craig and Judge Roan (Damien de Roche, Anthony Trott, Richard Qureshi, Keith Robertshaw)
As Atlanta's District Attorney, Hugh Dorsey handles all of the high profile cases in Marietta. Having graduated from the University of Georgia in 1893, he has now been appointed solicitor general of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit and is a member of the Democratic Party.
Tom Watson is an American politician, attorney, newspaper editor, and writer from Georgia. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1890, and has been key to the new legislation mandating Rural Free Delivery, the "biggest and most expensive endeavour" ever instituted by the U.S. postal service.
Britt Craig is a newspaper reporter for the Atlanta Georgian, who has been employed by the Atlanta Constitution newspaper as a junior reporter since 1912. Very ambitious, Craig is well known for being an excellent opportunistic reporter, although has struggled with alcoholism in recent times.
Leonard Strickland Roan from Henry County, Georgia, obtained his legal training in Griffin, Georgia, and is now the representative from the fifth district in Congress. He was admitted to the bar in 1870 and is thought of as one of the best trial judges of criminal cases that the State has ever produced.
|Mrs Phagan and Mary (Monica Wallis, Olivia Wilson)
The tragic loss of little Mary Phagan has hit the community hard, but none more so than her mother Mrs Phagan. Following the death of William Phagan, (Mary Phagan's father), shortly after Mary was born, Mary, along with her mother and younger sister, Lizzie, moved to East Point, Georgia. Mary Phagan, born June 1, 1899, left school at the age of ten to start work. In 1912, Mrs Phagan re- married and the family moved to the town of Marietta. In the spring of 1912, as a pretty little girl of 12, Mary took a job at the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, not knowing that this would eventually lead to her untimely death only one year later. Her work was to operate a knurling machine that fastened the metal clips which held rubber erasers to the pencils. Mary was a popular girl with many friends, and on the day of her death, Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1913, great heartbreak spread through the town, and all who knew her want to see her murderer brought to justice.
|Jim Conley, Minnie, Newt Lee, Riley and Angela (Daniel Haswell , Jennifer Bye, Eddie Hinds, Tyrone Haywood, Juliana Anderiesz)
Servants to white families or low-ranking employees; these are the roles the members of the black community play. The lucky ones, anyway. Segregated from whites in all areas of daily life, they must use separate bathrooms, eat in separate areas of diners, even drink from separate water fountains. In some establishments entry to black people is refused altogether. Lynching is a common, widely accepted occurrence here in the South. A black man will be lynched for as little as appearing to look at a white woman in 'the wrong way'. No rights, no respect. Viewed as criminals, uneducated animals, life for the black community here is no picnic.
|Frankie Epps, Iola Stover, Monteen and Essie (Peter Wheeler, Becky Bond, Courtney Harrington, Eloise Brown)
Life for the workers of the National Pencil Company Factory will never be the same after learning of the tragic death of one of their own; little Mary Phagan. The news has hit friends Frankie, Iola, Monteen, and Essie particularly hard. For children as young as these, having just entered their teenage years themselves, to lose a friend in this way is devastating. They were a close group of friends, always happy in each other's company working side by side at the Pencil Factory and spending their free time together. Visiting the picture shows was a particular favourite pastime for the group. These young children are desperate to have the person responsible for their friend's death brought to justice.
|Young Soldier, Young Lila, Old Soldier and Old Lila (Peter Hartley, Nicola Howlett, Rick Thompsett, Linda Such)
As only a boy of 19 years old, this young soldier, born on May 22, 1843, was drafted into the Confederate army as a lowly infantryman. Saying goodbye to his sweetheart, Lila, he left to fight in the American Civil War, not knowing if he would ever return to his family and life in Marietta. He was in action on July 3, 1863, the third and final day of combat of the great Battle of Gettysburg, and the day of the fateful Pickett's Charge. Now, 50 years on, this once young soldier was lucky enough to return to home, albeit badly injured and now in a wheelchair. He was welcomed home to Marietta a hero, especially by his beloved Lila, for he represents those who gave life and limb for Georgia, and suffered unimaginable degradation fighting in our name.
|Governor and Mrs Sally Slaton (Chris Evans, Kathryn Fletcher)
John Marshall Slaton, born December 25, 1866, is a lawyer and politician, serving as a member of the Georgia General assembly and Senate, and is the 60th Governor of Georgia. He married Sally Slaton on July 12, 1898, the pair are a respected couple in the southern community. Governor Slaton has been in office as acting Governor since 1911, and was elected to the governorship in his own right in 1913. Having personally reviewed thousands of pages of documents related to Leo Frank's trial, Slaton's decision to commute Frank's sentence from the death penalty to imprisonment for life, has caused wide-spread upset in the community and has put his position as Governor in jeopardy. Slaton says "I am sure that my action has been the right one, the just one and the one all patriotic Georgians will agree with. Of course I care for the public approbation, but should I have failed to commute Frank I would have been guilty, as I see it, of murder."
|Peavy/Rosser, Starnes, Ivey, Prison Guard and Policeman (Crispian Shepley, Chris Haslett, Russell Thompson, Daniel Crego- Bustelo, Chris Rumbold)
Immediately after the discovery of Mary Phagan's body, it was clear that a terrible murder had taken place. The Chief of Police, John N. Starnes was assigned to the case with Officer Ivey appointed as his assistant. They quickly arrested two suspects and held them so that they could be questioned by Prosecutor Dorsey. In truth, Starnes and Ivey were subordinate to Dorsey and did little more than carry out his orders once the arrests had been made. Luther Rosser was appointed as Leo Frank's attorney. Rosser had a reputation as being one of the best lawyers in Georgia but, in this case, comes off as rather pompous and ineffectual. The only positive for Frank in the whole sorry business was the sympathy and friendship he received from Mr. Peavy, a prison guard at Milledgeville Prison Farm. Peavy allowed Leo certain favours that would not normally have been afforded to a prisoner.
Photos from the Show - click here
Rehearsal Photos - click here
|'So good, I could quite happily watch the show every night this week'||'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'||'This is an interesting, gripping and well-staged production with well-executed performances throughout'|
|'One word - Wow! Incredible show guys, well done'||'Very slick production with all strong cast and cracking singing, had a cry'||'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'|
Show Week Video
NODA Review by Jon Fox
PARADE - Epsom Light Opera Company - 22nd April 2015
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.
Essential Surrey Review by Deborah Harris
Parade - Epsom Light Opera Company - 22nd April 2015
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.
Sardines Review by Chris Abbott
22nd April 2015
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.