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|The Accused: "Parade," at the District Theatre through May 5|
|Theatre - Reviews|
|Written by Thom White|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 06:00|
Would it be possible to get a cast recording of the District Theatre’s Parade? Because the production is so well-sung by its cast members, I wouldn’t mind listening to them perform composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s songs over and over again. The solos are stirring, as characters sing about their relationships and roles in a Georgia town gripped by the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl. But some of the ensemble numbers gave me goosebumps during Saturday’s performance – particularly the hauntingly sad “Funeral Sequence: There Is a Fountain / It Don’t Make Sense,” performed as the townsfolk remember the young lady whose body was found in the basement of a local pencil factory.
Directed by Tristan Tapscott (who also portrays Hugh Dorsey, the vile, loathsome prosecutor in the girl’s murder trial), the production has a natural feel to it and doesn't seem overproduced. Tapscott is apparently aware of just how powerful playwright Alfred Uhry’s book and Brown’s music and lyrics are, and knows that the musical doesn't require extensive embellishment to strengthen its emotional impact. But his production still seems carefully thought out, and the material presented in a respectful manner worthy of the piece. Tapscott makes a particularly smart choice in staging the “Interrogation Sequence,” sitting Ezekiel Davis’ Newt Lee – the night watchman who discovered Mary’s body – in a chair, with his hands clasped together and his head down the entire song. We never see his face, just the top of his head. And viewing this man perhaps in an act of prayer, with fear resonating in his rich, moving vocals, is heartrending for the clear way it exemplifies Newt’s sense that despite his innocence, he’s in a desperate situation, with little hope of escaping punishment.
Parade runs at the District Theatre (1611 Second Avenue, Rock Island) through May 5, and tickets and information are available by calling (309)235-1654 or visiting DistrictTheatre.com.
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