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PEMCo. Brings ‘Parade’ to Life

Maija Gustin | Thursday, February 11, 2010

This weekend, Friday through Sunday, the Pasquerilla East Musical Company will be performing Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade.” The musical tells the true story of a Jewish factory superintendent living in Atlanta, Ga., in 1913 who was wrongly accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee. “Parade” premiered on Broadway in December 1998 and was nominated for nine Tony awards, winning two of them, one for best book and the other for best score.
The story opens up in a town called Marietta, Ga., during the Civil War, with a Confederate soldier singing to his love and the town he will be leaving behind. Suddenly, though, it is 1913, and this same soldier is now a veteran, missing a leg from his time in the war. It is the day of the Confederate Memorial Day parade. Leo Frank, a Jewish man from Brooklyn who manages a pencil factory, feels out of place, both in his town and in his marriage. He does not understand the southern way of life he is surrounded by, but stays only for his good job and for his wife. His wife Lucille is mad that he has chosen to go into work on the holiday, hoping to have a picnic with him instead. She laments their crumbling marriage while the parade carries on outside.
Meanwhile, young Mary Phagan rides a trolley car to the factory so she can pick up her pay from Leo. Her friend Frankie Epps wants to take her to the picture show, but she needs to get paid and take the money home. That night, Leo is awoken by police officers that drag him to his factory to find the body of Mary Phagan, raped and murdered. Leo is arrested and slowly becomes the main suspect in the case. A trial commences and Leo is the scapegoat for being different. What follows is the harrowing tale of one man’s struggle for freedom. “Parade” deals with serious issues such as race, prejudice, truth, law, love and everything else in between. It is not for the faint of heart, but holds important messages at its core.
Everyone involved in the PEMCo. production has risen to the challenge of taking on this tough material and put together a great ensemble. All the elements of the production, from the cast and the music to the set and lights, come together to create a great rendition of an acclaimed show. They do not shy away from the issues of the musical, but embrace them as a part of the story. “Parade” has a grace in handling its own material, paying careful attention to the truth of this real historical event. This story that shook America almost 100 years ago is rarely talked about anymore, but deserves to never be forgotten. “Parade” is a small reminder of our country’s past, and speaks to the way we should handle our present.
Tickets for the show are $6 for students and $8 for the general public. Following the Sunday performance, held at 3 p.m., composer Jason Robert Brown and National Touring Cast Member Keith Byron Kirk will be holding a talk with the audience. That evening at 8 p.m., Brown will also be giving a concert in the Snite Annenberg Auditorium. Tickets to this concert are $2 with a “Parade” ticket stub, or $5 for general admission.
Performances of “Parade” are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. It will be performed in Washington Hall. Tickets are now available at the LaFortune Box Office.