The best theatre bargain in Rhode Island occurs a few times a year at the Brown/Trinity MFA programs produced at the Pell/Chafee Performance Center, 87 Empire St., around the corner from Trinity.
The talented troupe of students has selected the Tony-award winning musical “Parade” (book by Alfred Uhry/music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown) for its latest full-scale production. “Parade” is directed by Talya Klein, class of 2012, and is based on the trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank in 1913 Atlanta.
Klein makes good use of the spacious Pell/Chafee Center, presented the musical in the round, with actors appearing from a variety of places, with some sitting with the audience.
We meet Leo Frank (Charlie Thurston) as he is working on a holiday, much to the disappointment of his devoted wife, Lucille (Caroline Kaplan). “It is tough being southern and Jewish,” the workaholic says, as he puts work above his wife and comes off as chauvinistic, arrogant and cold.
A young factory worker is murdered and Frank becomes the main suspect, although another man, who happens to be black, could have committed the crime. With much of the dialogue sung, “Parade” has an operatic tone to it.
False testimonies are given, and Frank’s arrogance doesn’t help his cause. The townspeople want justice, and they aren’t too particular about how they get it. A guilty verdict was inevitable.
While this is a tale about prejudice, it is also a tale of devoted love, as Lucille attempts to prove her husband innocent. There is also a bit of politics involved, as the second act picks up the story a year later with the prosecuting attorney running against the mayor.
There is no question that this musical is a tragedy of the first order, and it is told compassionately and straightforward. The music and the acting are exceptional, showcasing the talents of the students in this prestigious program.
“Parade” continues through Dec. 11. Seating is limited, so call 351-4242 today for reservations. General admission seating is $12, $6 for students and seniors.