Sunday, July 20, 2008

Singing to Help Others

Posted by Bruce Miller
A concert reading of the songs from the Tony Award-winning musical Parade will be presented tonight and tomorrow in benefit performances at Barksdale Willow Lawn. Thirty-three great singers will join together to celebrate the music of Jason Robert Brown, one of Broadway’s hottest “new composers.” The benefit concert is being coordinated by Hannah Zold, an alum of several Barksdale musicals including Into the Woods, The Full Monty and Mame. Music direction is by Damas E. Boudreaux.

The volunteer cast is comprised of many of the finest theatre voices from Richmond and beyond. All funds raised are being contributed by Zold and her performers to Barksdale’s Bifocals Theatre Project (which takes touring one-acts into senior centers throughout Greater Richmond at little or no charge) and Barksdale’s hospital audience program (which makes tickets to musicals and comedies available free-of-charge to families who come to Richmond to be with a child undergoing treatment at an area hospital).

Parade, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Alfred Uhry, is one of the most acclaimed new musicals of Broadway's last decade. It opened at Lincoln Center ten years ago, and received the 1999 Tony Award for Best Book (Uhry) and Best Score (Jason Robert Brown). It was nominated for Best Musical, but lost that year to Fosse, the tribute to Bob Fosse’s legendary choreography.

Quoting from Wikipedia, “The musical concerns the real-life 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The trial, sensationalized by the media, aroused anti-Semitic tensions in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. When Frank's sentence was commuted due to possible problems with the trial, he was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia where a lynching party kidnapped him from the prison. Frank was taken to Phagan's hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged. The Anti-Defamation League was formed partly in response to Leo Frank's trial and lynching.”

Broadway director Harold “Prince turned to Brown (pictured to the left) to write the score after Stephen Sondheim turned the project down. Prince's daughter, Daisy, had brought Brown to her father's attention. Uhry, who grew up in Atlanta, had personal knowledge of the Frank story, as his great-uncle owned the pencil factory run by Leo Frank.”

“The show was Brown's first Broadway production. His music has ‘subtle and appealing melodies that draw on a variety of influences, from pop-rock to folk to rhythm and blues and gospel.’ The plot hews closely to the historical story. The true villains of the piece are portrayed as the prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (later the governor of Georgia and then a judge) and the rabid publisher Tom Watson (later elected a U.S. senator).”

The Murder of Mary Phagan, a movie based on the same historical incident, was filmed in locations throughout Greater Richmond in 1987, starring Jack Lemmon as Georgia Gov. John Slaton and Peter Gallagher as Leo Frank.

Parade is the third in playwright Alfred Uhry’s “Atlanta Trilogy.” The first play in the trilogy, Driving Miss Daisy, will be presented at Barksdale Hanover Tavern this fall, starring Joy Williams, Jim Bynum and Garet Chester, and directed by Joe Pabst.

Jason Robert Brown's new musical 13 (pictured to the right) is set to open on Broadway this September. The entire cast of 13 is made up of 13 teen actors, and the entire band is comprised of teen musicians. The story of the musical concerns a happy 13-year-old from NYC who, weeks before his bar mitzvah, moves with his parents to Indiana where he must begin a new life.

If you love great singing, new musicals and/or stirring drama, or if you want to support this cast of magnificent performing artists as they raise funds for two worthy programs, please come to Barksdale Willow Lawn for the 8 pm performance tonight (Sunday) or tomorrow (Monday). Tickets are available at the door for $15, or you can purchase them in advance at the box office for $12.

Having listened in on two rehearsals, I can report that the singers are amazing. I can’t wait to see and hear this huge and talented cast performing these rousing songs.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

pnlkotula said...

Thanks so much for the opportunity. I wasn't familiar with Parade before becoming involved with this concert, and it's so beautiful and so touching.