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a Musical
by Book by Alfred Uhry, Music & Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown,Co-conceived & directed on Broadway by Harold Prince

COMPANY : Act 3 Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Act 3 Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 4505

SHOWING : November 07, 2013 - November 23, 2013



n 1913, Marietta factory manager Leo Frank was accused of murdering 13 year old Mary Phagan. This true local story is still compelling 100 years after it happened and offers a strong moral lesson on the danger of prejudice and ignorance.

Tom Watson Jack Allison
Lucille Frank Lisa Hatt
Lucille Frank Lisa Hatt
Luthor Rosser/Mr. Peavy David Skoke
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A Parade of Delights
by playgoer
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Directors Michelle Davis and Chris Ikner have shaped a seamless production in ACT3’s "Parade," letting all the beauty and power of the script and songs flow through to the audience. It’s a handsome production, with Marlissa Doss’ 1913 costumes adding color on the set designed by Theresa Dean and Matthew Pino, which consists of a two-story National Pencil Company building stage right and a series of red clay-colored platforms center and stage left, dominated by a gnarled and leafless tree far upstage (which isn’t very far, given the shallowness of the stage). There’s also a swing, used by Piper Campbell Gibson as Mary Phagan before the show, which reflects a lyric line later in the show. This shows a design sensibility that is completely in tune with the script and with the direction.

This is a wonderfully sung show. It should sound great, but the sound design/operation by Elliot Beckner too often gets in the way. Microphones are worn by all the actors, but they’re not always turned up when an actor starts a line. I fail to see why they were needed at all. Many voices are so powerful that the amplification merely muddles them, and others are amplified to the extent that slight pitch variations are notable, when otherwise they would blend in. In the performance I saw, Ms. Gibson’s microphone was giving horrible feedback and was usually turned off to prevent the squeals and squawks from overwhelming her voice. She doesn’t have a booming voice, but could be heard distinctly. The problem was in having her compete against the amplified voice of another actor. The disparity in sound levels is what caused an issue. In ensemble numbers, the voice-from-a-speaker quality also made it difficult to locate a singer’s physical location on stage.

The acting is of high quality throughout. Standouts, I thought, included Lisa Hatt as a spot-on Lucille Frank, Russ Ivey as an energetic Governor Slaton, David Skoke as a slyly unctuous Mr. Peavy, and Aubrey Turnbull as an expressive Essie. Fine performances, as always, are also provided by Daniel Pino (Hugh Dorsey), Spencer G. Stephens (Jim Conley/Newt Lee), Chris Ikner (Britt Craig), Patrick Hill (Old Soldier/Judge Roan), and Kandice Arrington (Minnie McKnight). Everyone had their moments, and no one was in any way inadequate for their role. Chris Davis, as Leo Frank, got all the overall emotions right for his character, but I thought lacked the nuance with which Lisa Hatt embued the character of his wife. (His voice and look, though, were great.)

Choreography in the show is credited to the two directors and to Johnna B. Mitchell (who plays Governor Slaton’s wife). It was a weak point in the show, without an overall choreographic sensibility. The most effective dance movement, I thought, came in the puppet-like testimony of the three girls. There was also a magnificent spin by Ms. Mitchell and Clay Sasser in the midst of some run-of-the-mill ballroom dancing. (And why was Ms. Mitchell dressed like a Wild West madam in that scene, when she was so elegantly dressed otherwise?)

Matthew Pino’s lighting design adds a lot to the show. Backlighting is used effectively to illuminate the back wall of the set, adding some visual interest to a black cinder block wall, and spotlighting neatly draws the eye across the stage to where action is occurring. It’s another one of the technical elements fully in keeping with the overall design sensibility.

Musical director Lyn Taylor has obviously done her work well in preparing the singers, and she also does a fine job in conducting the six-piece orchestra. During the show, the musicians are ensconced in the second floor of the National Pencil Company building, hidden behind translucent windows. It’s a wonderful placement, with the sound system keeping them in balance with the singers throughout.

The story is the thing in "Parade." It’s a hard-hitting show, leavened with touches of humor. It starts with a series of musical numbers that all garner applause. Then the more serious aspects of the story kick in, and underscoring blurs the ending of songs, allowing scenes and songs to blend together and build. Jason Robert Brown’s songs and Alfred Uhry’s book blend as seamlessly as the direction and flow of this production.

Blocking makes full use of the available entrances (the front door of the pencil factory; a back entrance to the factory, covered by a shed roof; and a stair down left). Blocking also adds interest to the use of fold-out/slide-out elements of the set. Actors often do the movement during a scene, letting the scene changes flow seamlessly.

Like most productions at ACT3, "Parade" contains touches that hint at a directorial reading of the text that goes beyond the surface. It would be enough to convey the story of Leo Frank, accused and convicted on the flimsiest of cooked evidence for the murder of Mary Phagan, whose sentence was commuted by the governor of Georgia, yet whose life ended in a lynching. Here, though, we’re given that story with a little extra theatrical flair, all in the service of the story. It’s a darned good production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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