I hadn’t heard of the musical. I had only vaguely heard of the theatre company (Waterdale Players). Neither of these things means much- I’m not really up with musical theatre- in fact, I have rather mixed feelings about the genre- and I’m not exactly a social butterfly. But I very much enjoyed this performance.
‘Parade’ is a musical based on the real-life story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jewish factory supervisor who was accused of the murder of a 13 year old factory employee in Marietta, Georgia in 1913. I was not familiar with the story at all, and so I won’t expand further- you can read about it here . The case dragged up all sorts of racial stereotypes and conundrums: the Deep South, antisemitism, Yankee capitalism, and allegations of racism in attempts to redirect attention for the crime onto a negro factory worker.
In thirty years time (maybe less!) we’ll probably look back to a turn-of-the-millennium fad of large-scale, dramatic musicals that are typified by Lloyd-Webber and Schonberg and Boublil: think Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Phantom, Cats and all those Disney films that hover on the border between stage show and animation – Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, etc. In many ways, the songs are almost interchangeable between them, and the music style itself bears more connection with record sales and popular taste than with the historical era or culture that it is depicting. Still- that’s true too of Gilbert and Sullivan, Mozart, Handel, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe- they all seem to have their own distinctive sound that comes to represent a particular era of musical, and you could mix-and-match the songs of one composer between any number of his musicals. And so, too, Parade is very much of the Les Mis ilk- a big cast, big songs etc.
And so how did a small youth theatre company, based in Ivanhoe, deal with all this? Very well. It was a large cast- I counted 43 on stage- working in a fairly confined area, so the choreography and stage direction had to be very disciplined. The set was minimal and ingenious, although it seemed to require a lot of manipulation and turning around in the dark. The singing was robust and clear, and covered a wide emotional range. It was a good story, well-told, a good musical score, and the whole performance was enacted with enthusiasm and confidence.
Most of all, it was refreshing to turn aside from all the corporate sponsorship and A-list crawling and parasitism to watch talented people doing something that they love doing because they love it. I’m deeply grateful for people who turn out on weekends and weeknights, giving and receiving in turn – whether it be the local footy-team, the wildlife regeneration people in the local park, or in this case, an amateur theatre company- who are skilled and engaged, and who give pleasure through their talents to other people.
Parade closes this coming weekend and I’m not sure how their bookings are going, but the details are here.