Hillcrest Center for the Arts
403 W. Hillcrest Dr, Thousand Oaks CA
Playing thru September 24, 2016
Friday & Sat, 8pm – Sunday 2pm Matinee
In a 1959 sermon, Dr. Martin Luther King said “the soft-minded man always fears change. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”
“Parade” is the musical based on the true story of bookkeeper Leo Frank (played by Joshua Finkel), a Brooklyn Jew who represented just such a threat to the people of post-Civil War Georgia. When Frank accepted a job with the National Pencil Company in Marietta, his new neighbors were mostly tolerant of the new Yankee despite the lingering memory of a defeated Confederacy.
Then, 13 year-old Mary Phagan (Ashley Kiele Thomas) is found dead in the basement of the pencil company after receiving her week’s pay. Fearful, suspicious, and with more than a little leftover hostility and prejudice, the townspeople quickly point at the new guy in town. Leo is locked up without much hope or evidence, and witnesses are coached to deliver a series of twisted tales to ensure a conviction.
The opening number of “Parade,” ‘The Old Red Hills of Home’ is beautifully delivered by the young solider played by Thomas Hollow and an old Confederate (Steve Perren) at the foot of the audience. Actors don’t wear mikes in the intimate space, which has been simply and appropriately staged by set designer Jeff Calnitz. Set pieces suggest rather than overwhelm, and the effect is ideal to the space and allows the action to flow.
Likewise, costume designer Lori Lee has her cast in thoroughly authentic and accurate dress, from the bright dresses of the governor’s ball right down to Mary Phagan’s boots. Even when a group of newsboys jump onstage for five seconds, Lee delivers them in period-correct dress.
The war may be over, but little has changed. In an early scene we’re introduced to the Frank household where Lucille (Dana Shaw) drops a pin on the floor. Rather than pick it up, she’ll wait until their colored maid Minnie (Brittney S. Wheeler) comes back to pick it up. Before show’s end, Lucille Frank will be fighting a whole new war, defending her husband in the powerful number ‘You Don’t Know this Man.’ She reminds Marietta that a man who pays his bills early and writes his mother every Sunday isn’t the type to randomly murder a young woman.
Played with equal parts sympathy and rage is Mary’s boyfriend Frankie (Sam Herbert). The young boy’s affection for Mary is established on a street car in the early number ‘The Picture Show,’ and after Mary’s death, Herbert sings ‘It Don’t Make Sense to Me’ with a smooth, almost heartbroken beauty. Here, playwright Alfred Uhry presents the irreversible damage done to both couples.
As Marietta residents prepare to mark Confederate Memorial Day, Leo sits shaking his head. “I don’t know why anyone would want to celebrate losing a war.” Leo soon finds out that the townsfolk are looking for “a new chance to fight the war.” And with his indictment for Mary’s murder, just such an opportunity arrives. For a crooked prosecutor (Paul Panico) and particularly a local newspaper reporter (a Clark Kent-ish Taylor Nelson), that opportunity is too rich not to be seized.
When the out-going governor (Robert Weibezahl) begins to investigate the circumstances of Leo’s sham trial, the people of Marietta react according to Martin Luther King’s script: seized by the pain of a new idea, they seize one last opportunity to take matters into their own hands.
Unlike many musicals, in which a thin plotline supports a score of songs, “Parade” has both lively numbers and a significant message based on true events. It’s a new idea, and one that is not in the least bit painful to watch unfold.
Fridays & Saturday 8pm, 2pm Sunday matinee
Thru September 24th, 2016
Hillcrest Center for the Arts
403 W. Hillcrest Dr, Thousand Oaks, CA
Tickets: 805-381-1246 or online at:
Tickets: $17.50 – 20.00