Review: PARADE Marches Into Seacoast Repertory Theatre

Bold, powerful and thoughtful for our times.

By: Mar. 20, 2023
Review: PARADE Marches Into Seacoast Repertory Theatre
Review: PARADE Marches Into Seacoast Repertory Theatre

Seacoast Repertory Theatre distinguishes itself once again with a bold choice of producing Parade, a dynamic musical production based on a true life story that tackles issues of antisemitism, mob mentality, and outright hate in the 1913 world of Atlanta, Georgia.

Parade is not your typical musical. There's little opportunity to hum memorable tunes after the show. Rather, the show is a blend of ballads about harsh issues, soulful expressions of both love and hate, and riveting ensemble numbers expressing a wide range of human emotions with explosive vocals and mesmerizing choreography.

The story follows Leo Frank (Jason Faria), a mild-mannered Jewish man transplanted from New York City to the throes of the south with his wife, Lucille Frank (Jennifer Sue Rockwell) because of a job offer by his father-in-law at a pencil factory. He is a fish out of water missing the intellectual surroundings and lifestyle that he left behind in the north. His wife is a southern girl who tries desperately to connect with a husband who has grown distant and depressed in a world so foreign to him.

The tale centers on Mary Phagan (Grace Dalton), a wisp of a free spirit factory worker, who is found murdered in the basement of the factory where Leo works. Local officials are quick to identify potential suspects including two black men, security guard, Newt Lee (Craig Terrell) and factory janitor, Jim Conley (Christopher Hobson). Both men are dismissed by authorities preferring to pin the crime on the timid Jew, Leo Frank. The mayor, Hugh Dorsey (Jamie Bradley) leads the charge, while the governor, John Slaton (Tobin Moss) follows in bringing Frank to trial. Local reporter Britt Craig (Joshua Lapierre) gets on the bandwagon seeing dollar signs in the newspaper headlines that will follow. Townsfolk and rabble-rousing rebels are eager to see the Jewish man found guilty. And even though Frank's lawyer, Luther Rosser (Bob Porzio) is well-intentioned he doesn't seem to have a chance in hell to have his client freed.

The first act centers on Frank being arrested and brought to trial. And while there is a lack of hard evidence to condemn Frank, that doesn't stop the officials. When told that there is a lack of an eye witness to the crime, Judge Dorsey, calmy states, "Then go out and find one." Eyewitness stories are fabricated, truths stretched to falsehoods, and a mob pre-determines Frank's guilt long before the trial is finished.

When the jury finally speaks, Frank is found guilty as charged and sentenced to death by hanging.

Act 2 brings second thoughts to the court action spearheaded by a repentant Governor Slaton prompted by Lucille Frank who urges him to reopen the case to prove her husband's innocence. The truth comes out that witnesses were coached to lie and that Frank might, in fact, be not guilty. The governor has enough doubt to reduce Frank's sentence from death to life in prison. But the reprieves come a bit too late as some folks decide to take matters into their own hands by lynching Leo Frank.

This show is a master class in storytelling. Once again the Seacoast Rep proves there are no bounds to what they can produce in a small seacoast theater in New Hampshire and the repertory ensemble doesn't disappoint for a moment.

The supporting cast of Lapierre, Bradley and Porzio reek of good "ole boy" southern brotherhood. But their performances are tempered without the stereotypical overacting that can permeate such characters. Ben Hart adeptly takes on the role of a despicable judge.

For the younger actors, Jacob Anspach is a fire keg of song and dance that explodes as Frankie Epps, Mary Phagan's suitor. Grace Dalton is winsome as the young spirited Mary, and Heather Conti-Clark, Kallei Trottier, and Ozma Kasten are a powerful trio as Mary's fellow factory girls forced to tell lies about Leo Frank.

There's a wonderful supporting performance from Alyssa Dumas, playing the mother of the murdered girl (Her "My Child Will Forgive Me" was mesmerizing) and also from Moss, playing the Georgia governor who finally sees his obligation to seeking the truth about Frank.

The gutsiest performances of the night come from Hobson, portraying Jim Conley, the likely perpetrator of the crime. His number, "That's What He Said," is a highlight of the courtroom scene and his "Feel the Rain Fall" while on the chain gang is brutally powerful.

The grounding for this production stands with Faria as the accused Leo Long and Rockwell as his wife Lucille.

Faria captures the essence of the mild-mannered man trying to make sense of a world where he doesn't quite fit in his first number, "How Can I Call this Home?" He wonderfully bares his soul in "It's Hard to Speak My Heart," an appeal to his innocence in the court room scene. His exuberance shines in "This Is Not Over Yet" and he's amazingly tender with his wife in "All the Wasted Time."

Faria is perfect for the role, slight in stature and looking very much like the image of real-life Leo Frank that a quick Google search reveals. He's bold when needed, yet, subtle and thoughtful in his performance. When he prays in his cell, he doesn't have a yarmulke so he places his hand on his head. That's nice for his character.

There are two absolutely haunting numbers in the show.

The first is "The Factory Girls/ Come Up to My Office" where the imagined world of Frank as the guilty party is played out with his luring the young factory girls to his office and all his would be inappropriate behavior in full view. It leaves the audience wondering for a moment if he could be guilty.

"Cakewalk" is a number showing the unbridled glee from Frank's accusers as he is found guilty. It is uncomfortable to watch showing such joy in anti-Jewish sentiment and in Frank's sentence to hang. (For me, it was as troubling to watch as was the recent local news coverage about Portsmouth businesses whose windows were spray painted with swastikas. The Seacoast Rep has partnered with the Anti-Defamation League, Temple Israel, and other interfaith leaders to host community conversations around such occurrences that promote hate.)

Rockwell's numbers are among the best of the evening in "You Don't Know the Man" and "Do It Alone." She creates a wonderful character and her scenes with Faria are heartwarming. Her transformation from passive housewife to an emboldened advocate for her husband create a memorable character.

With simply a bare stage on which to perform, lighting is crucial to this production and Zachary Ahmad-Kahloon handles the job with flair. Costuming is period authentic as created by costume designer, DW.

If there is a shortcoming in this production, it is a bit of a problem balancing out the sound between the orchestra and vocalists. Too often the orchestra overwhelmed the theater and actors were forced to sing at a high volume to be heard and understood. This was less of a problem with the solo numbers.

I chalk this up to opening weekend adjustments that occur in any production. Just a small tweak in the sound balance should give the production the textured musical layers it deserves.

"Parade" first opened in 1998 and was recently revived on Broadway. It is one of those shows that you will rarely see in a high school or community theater which makes the Seacoast Rep mounting worth seeing.

Be prepared for a compelling story with heart wrenching and gut wrenching moments. In the capable hands of the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, it is another one-of-a-kind experience for the Seacoast region.

Join Team BroadwayWorld

Are you an avid theatergoer in New Hampshire? We're looking for people like you to share your thoughts and insights with our readers. Team BroadwayWorld members get access to shows to review, conduct interviews with artists, and the opportunity to meet and network with fellow theatre lovers and arts workers.

Interested? Learn more here.



JERSEY BOYS Comes to the Weathervane Theatre Photo
JERSEY BOYS Comes to the Weathervane Theatre

The Weathervane Theatre has announced the cast and creative team for Jersey Boys. Sponsored by Presby Steel LLC, this thrilling rock and roll musical plays a limited engagement at the Weathervane June 9 - June 18, 2023.

New Englands Favorite Heart Tribute Band Returns To The Park Theatre Photo
New England's Favorite Heart Tribute Band Returns To The Park Theatre

 In 1976, the top TV shows were All in the Family, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and M*A*S*H. One of the breakout bands that year was Heart, comprising of sisters Ann & Nancy Wilson. The Park Theatre will honor one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, Heart, with a live concert by New England’s #1 Heart tribute band, Heartless.

Singer-Songwriter Matt Nakoa Returns To Jaffreys Performing Arts Center On June 10 Photo
Singer-Songwriter Matt Nakoa Returns To Jaffrey's Performing Arts Center On June 10

Celebrated folk and blues legend Tom Rush has had singer-songwriter Matt Nakoa fronting for him on tour after tour. Tom has been quoted as saying, “He's a brilliant frontman… he steals the show, and I pay him to do it. I  don't know why.”

Review: NEWSIES at Seacoast Repertory Theatre Photo
Review: NEWSIES at Seacoast Repertory Theatre

Bring the kids to this amazing show.

From This Author - Dan Marois

It was his time growing up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where Dan Marois “got the bug” for theater and entertainment. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Boston Universit... (read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Jeremy Jordan
Bank of New Hampshire Stage (9/09-9/09)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# The Stands
The Players' Ring Theatre (5/26-6/11)
#repshow# in[i]# Aztec Two-Step 2.0 featuring Rex Fowler, Dodie Pettit and Friends
John Davidson's Club Sandwich (9/14-9/14)
#repshow# in[i]# The Four Phantoms In Concert
Capitol Center For The Arts (2/29-2/29)
#repshow# in[i]# Tiny Beautiful Things
Bank of New Hampshire Stage (6/09-6/11)
#repshow# in[i]# Matt Nakoa
The Park Theatre (6/10-6/10)
#repshow# in[i]# Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Hatbox Theatre (5/26-6/11)

Recommended For You