Parade One Off Productions C too

Choosing which shows to go and see is always a bit of a lottery – you can read the blurb in the Fringe programme but they don’t always live up to expectations. Recommendations from others are not always helpful either as people’s opinions vary so widely. Sometimes you just have to take a risk and I’m pleased to say it paid off in this case. Parade is a rarely staged 1998 Tony award winning musical by Jason Robert Brown and One Off Productions, a group of amateur actors from Cambridge, have brought it to Edinburgh for their debut appearance. Judging by the make up of the audience, they have brought all their friends and relatives too – we felt a bit like gatecrashers at a family party.

Parade is based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man who was framed for murder, jailed and lynched in America’s Deep South over a hundred years ago. It was a notorious case at the time which led to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan but also to the formation of the Anti-Defamation League which fought against anti-Semitism and racism. It is a challenging work for an amateur company but in general they pull it off very well.

There is no live music, just a backing track, which is no substitute for the real thing but it would have been impossible to fit musicians onto the smallish stage given the number of actors. The props are minimal – a couple of packing crates in the centre of the stage serve as a courtroom, a cell and ultimately a gallows. They haven’t stinted on the costumes which perfectly fit the period – confederate uniforms, the solid citizens of Atlanta, even the prisoners of the chain gang are kitted out appropriately. The cast are all competent enough singers but some of the harmonies were a bit off as were the American accents at times but overall, the heartfelt acting pulled it through.

Particular mention has to be made of Steve Nicolson as Leo and Lauren Hutchinson as his wife – their portrayals of two unassuming individuals brought closer together by the trials and tribulations they have to face was touching and believable. I would also commend Simon Anthony, whose singing was a cut above everyone else’s and he did justice to the songs even if his character didn’t do justice to poor Leo.

Irene Brownlee