THE BUZZ: Jeff Samaha Theater pulls out all the stops for rare performance of “Parade”
Still riding the high of a successfully sold-out “Les Miserables,” Bay Ridge’s own Jeff Samaha Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale is proud to present “Parade,” the story of Brooklyn-born Leo Frank, convicted of the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan in 1913 Atlanta, Georgia.
“I think, for us, doing ‘Parade’ is really significant only because it’s a show that a lot of theater companies are afraid to tackle,” noted the production’s producer, Karen Tadross, “but what we felt was that, once you read the story of Leo Frank and listen to the music and read the script, you’re almost compelled to do it after you’ve realized what it’s truly about.”
“Parade,” penned in the late 1990s with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, recounts the press frenzy and public outrage around Frank’s trial, and his wife’s crusade for justice. Amid religious intolerance, political justice and racial tension, the Tony Award-winning musical explores the endurance of love and hope, even when up against all odds.
Frank, explained Tadross, is a Jewish man from Brooklyn who gets a job down south, where his religion makes him an outsider.
“They got a really bad rap,” the producer said, adding that, when a young girl working at the factory is murdered, the town is quick to convict Frank. “The story shows how this man got railroaded and how people were coerced to lie by people in power. What happened to him was just an abomination of justice and, as a theater company, once we read it, we just couldn’t put it down.”
It’s more than a mystery, said Tadross, and what’s a good mystery without the music to match?
“It is an incredible piece of theater,” she said. “The music just melts you.”
Directed by Jeff Samaha, with music direction by Evan Alparone and choreography by Gabrielle Mangano, “Parade” puts 35 talented performers on display, many whom are seasoned veterans, and fresh off their roles in “Les Mis.”
Performances will take place at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, located at 350 67th Street, on Friday, December 5 at 8 p.m., Saturday, December 6 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 7 at 3 p.m. Reserved seating tickets ($22-$26) can be purchased online at www.ridgechorale.com or by phone at 718-989-9566.
“It’s very much an eye-opening experience,” Tadross said, adding that the audience plays its own very special role. “The way the show is presented is that through the trial, the audience is the jury; they are the spectators; the testimony is played to them.
“The audience will constantly be torn about whether to believe Frank or not,” she said, “but little by little, the truth emerges.”
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