Parade in the intimate setting of Southwark Playhouse tells the story of a Jewish man murdered by a lynch mob

“You’re saying he’s honest, you’re saying he’s decent but you’re not saying he’s innocent!”
Tom Watson, journalist said to Mrs Lucille Frank

Alistair Brookshaw as Leo Frank - Photo: Annabel Vere

What is amazing about Parade is that Alfred Uhry, the author of the book of the musical, is the great nephew of the man who owned the pencil factory that Leo Frank (Alastair Brookshaw) managed in 1913 in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a part of Uhry’s family history and maybe why the case has the ability to capture the imagination of its audience today. It is a story of a man who, out of his usual environment, and in a marriage that was far from ideal, found himself a victim not only of Anti-Semitism but also of the North South divide 50 years after the Civil war had set American against American.

People continue to argue today about the rights and wrongs of the case against Leo Frank: there is opinion on both sides although most are convinced now of his innocence, but what ultimately happened to him was wrong by any moral code. Leo Frank was the victim of knee jerk, mob violence more usually doled out to black men accused of raping whites.  The main evidence against Leo Frank comes from the black sweeper Jim Conley powerfully sung here by Terry Doe. We are told that this was the first time in the South that the word of a black man convicted a white man.

Parade is a deeply moving musical, dark and penetrating, very different from the schmaltzy or sentimental themes of others of its genre but all the more satisfying for that.  I saw it first at the Donmar Warehouse a few years back and now gladly see it revived at the intimate Southwark Playhouse on a narrow traverse set bringing the audience into close proximity with the players.
It is divinely sung throughout from the picture framing opening of the young war hero from 1865 (Samuel J Weir), with a fest of Confederate flags, singing “The Old Red Hills of Home” to his sweetheart.  The simplicity of the set still allows for a balcony and a prison at the edges.

There are emotional highpoints to the show.  One is undoubtedly the funeral of the 13 year old Mary Phagan (Jessica Bastick-Vines) with her coffin carried by other young girls. Hugh Dorsey (a handsome Mark Inscoe playing a ruthless man) prosecutes with the governorship of Georgia as the intended prize of his political ambition. The girls are carried along in a Witches of Salem type hysteria: “his eyes get big, my face gets red, and I want to run away…” they sing and this segues into one of my favourite numbers from this show, the jaunty “Why Don’t You Come Up to My Office?”

Alastair Brookshaw plays Leo Frank. Tightly held in, slight of stature and pernickety, Frank isn’t the kind of man you naturally warm to but it is a super acting performance and Brookshaw’s tenor voice is excellent.  It was Leo Frank’s “odd demeanour” which made the police suspicious when they went to his house and asked him to open up the factory. Playing his wife Lucille, Laura Pitt-Pulford has a voice as strong as Lucille’s conviction of her husband’s innocence.  The beautiful melody, “All the Wasted Time” sees her with her husband allowed some time together in the jail after his reprieve.

The staging of the lynching is the only point at which we remember this production is on the fringe but even so the life sized drop curtain of one of the authentic photographs taken by those present in Marietta is disturbing.  Full marks to Southwark Playhouse for giving Londoners another opportunity to see, what is for my money, the very best musical of the last decade of the last century.

Steve Oney worked for 17 years researching the case of Leo Frank. His 2003 book And The Dead Shall Rise – The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank is the result.  The memorial at the site where Leo Frank was lynched reads:

Leo Frank 1884 – 1915
Wrongly accused, Falsely convicted, 
Wantonly murdered, Pardoned 1986.

There are those who still, in the defence of the murdered little girl, proclaim Leo Frank’s guilt. Here from the Atlanta Journal, a different epitaph:
“On Thanksgiving eve 1915, a few months after Frank was hanged, the Ku Klux Klan held its first modern-era cross-burning atop Stone Mountain, several miles east of Atlanta.  Three members of the lynching party were present.”

Musical Numbers

Act One

Prologue: The Old Red Hills of Home

Anthem: The Dream of Atlanta

How Can I Call This Home

The Picture Show

Leo At Work/What Am I Waiting For?

Interrogation – I am trying to remember

Big News!

There Is a Fountain/

It Don’t Make Sense,

hymn by William Cowper,

melody by Lowell Mason (1772)

Watson’s Lullaby

Somethin’ Ain’t Right

Real Big News

You Don’t Know This

The Trial (Finale Act One)

Pt.I: It Is Time Now

Pt.II: Twenty Miles From Marietta

Pt.III: Frankie’s Testimony

Pt.IV: The Factory Girls/

Come Up to My Office

Pt. V: Newt Lee’s Testimony

Pt. VI: My Child Will Forgive Me

Pt. VII: That’s What He Said

Pt. VIII: Leo’s Statement/

It’s Hard to Speak My Heart

Pt. IX: Closing Statements and Verdict

Act Two

It Goes On and On

A Rumblin’ and a Rollin’

Do it Alone

Pretty Music

Letter to the Governor

This Is Not Over Yet

Blues: Feel the Rain Fall

Where Will You Stand When the

Flood Comes

All the Wasted Time


Production Notes

Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Alfred Uhry

Co-conceived and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince
Directed by Thom Southerland



Alastair Brookshaw

Laura Pitt-Pulford

Mark Inscoe

Terry Doe



Kelly Agbowu

Simon Bailey

Jessica Bastick-Vines

Michael Cotton

Natalie Green

David Haydn

Abiona Omonua

Samantha Seager

Victoria Serra

Samuel J Weir


Director: Thom Southerland

Choreography: Tim Jackson

Production Designer: John Risebero

Lighting Designer: Howard Hudson

Sound Designer: Theo Holloway

Musical Director: Michael Bradley

Musical Supervisor: Ian Vince Gatt

Musical Director: Chris Walker



Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with an interval

Closed on 17th September 2011



Southwark Playhouse

Shipwright Yard

Corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street

London SE1 2TF

Rail/Tube: London Bridge


Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at Southwark Playhouse on 16th August 2011