As the 2011-2012 season is almost at an end at Playhouse Merced, the Tony Award winning musical, “Parade,” has taken the stage.
The musical, written by Alfred Uhry, was first produced on Broadway in 1998, co-conceived and directed by Harold Prince, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.
Set in Georgia in 1913, the musical is based on the true story of Jewish factory owner, Leo Frank (Scott “Dusty” Guthier), who was wrongly accused of a horrible crime involving one of his employees, 13-year-old Mary Phagan (Jilliann Giacalone).
With thematic undertones such as anti-Semitism and rape, the audience is warned that the performance has been rated “M” for its mature themes, situations, and language. However, despite the delicate subject matter, the Playhouse actors, both new and familiar, capture the period piece in a serious, yet tasteful way.
Guthier portrays a sense of determination and strong will throughout his performance as Frank. His bold voice and stage presence add to the audience’s empathy with his situation. In addition, his stage chemistry with Lucille Frank (Nancy O’Bryan) allows the audience to sympathize with the couple and hope for them to reunite.
Hugh Dorsey, played by Joseph Hypes, is the likeable villain. From a character standpoint, the start of the wrongful accusation begins over his head, with Governor John Slaton (John Callihan). However, Dorsey takes things into his own hands in order to obtain a conviction. Hypes’ performance is captivating, especially during the trial.
Giacalone’s character reappears at various points throughout the performance as an apparition of sorts. She is able to remain a large part of the musical while maintaining an eerie presence. The use of flashbacks as ways to divulge the truth was an interesting change from other musicals.
As Jim Conley, G.B. Blackmon’s voice boomed during his solo songs. His lively dancing and singing had the audience captivated and on the edge of their seats while he was on stage.
The rest of the cast is equally riveting. They have good energy and stage chemistry with one another while performing. The choreography, by Chenté Cervantes, is simple, yet appropriate to the period, and makes excellent use of the stage space. Joel Scott Shad and orchestra perform the music.
The set is well designed to portray a variety of settings, including a factory, prison, home, and much more. The costumes allow for the audience to visualize the time period and become enthralled in the performance at hand.
There were a few mishaps with the sound and microphone levels, but for the most part lighting and sound were on point. The mishaps were easily overcome and did not take away from the overall performance.
When discussing his choice to put “Parade” in the playbill, Director Robert Hypes states, “It’s not your typical splashy, feel-good musical, that’s for sure. That said, “Parade” is a beautiful show musically and technically. I’m so proud of this cast and crew who have once again pulled it all together. It isn’t produced very often and in my opinion, it’s a real gem.”
The play will be running from March 9 –March 25. As mentioned earlier, the 2011-2012 season at the playhouse is coming to a close in a few short months. Upcoming performances are “Almost Heaven: The Songs of John Denver,” “The Elephant Man,” and “The Music Man”.
For more information regarding Playhouse Merced, visit: http://www.playhousemerced.com/.