With the book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, “Parade” makes its way to the Hillcrest Performing Arts Center, in Thousand Oaks, in Panic! Productions’ fresh new approach, after a relatively short lived run on Broadway. It’s a show emphasizing southern pride amidst looming anti semitism in Atlanta, circa early 20th century .
It tells the story of Leo Frank , portrayed impeccably by Joshua Finkel, a period piece with set design (Jeffrey Calnitz) and costumes (Lori Lee) seamlessly capturing this era.
Smartly directed by David Daniels, “Parade” tells the true life account, through song and dance numbers, definitely adding much needed levity to a somber subject matter . The discovery of a young 13 year old girl Mary Phagan (Ashley Kiele Thomas) found in the factory basement immediate leads to pegging Leo Frank as the prime suspect . This show is a powerful theatrical statement , with numbers such as “That’s What He Said,”performed by Jim Conley (Jeremy Whatley) in an impressive gospel style rendition.
The young up and coming starlet , Ashley Kiele Thomas, whose energy and wide eyed innocence shines on stage is sure to be a spotlight of every performance . Her duet with Frankie (Sam Herbert), “The Picture Show,” truly personifies their unique vocal talents and star quality personality traits .
Joshua as Leo Frank is both refined and soul searching in one , as he reaches to the depths of his soul with some wonderful moments as he belts his heart out in “How Can I Call This Home? and “It’s Hard to Speak my Heart.”
As Lucille Frank , Dana Shaw is superb in one of the most difficult roles in the show, as she must constantly defend her husband , with a sentimental solo “You Don’t Know this Man” pretty much summing up her devotion and intentions.
Each member of this cohesive ensemble lights up the stage in this dark toned musical drama , each one a parade of personality and attitude in his /her own right .
It is evident that director David Daniels and producers Paul Panico and Robert Weibezahl worked hard with this young group of actors to portray this dark story in history .
through Sept 24