Buck Creek Players
Directed by D. Scott Robinson
Through June 17
Buck Creek Players is presenting the Indianapolis premiere of the 2000 Tony Award-winning musical for Best Book and Best Score, Parade. Set in 1913 Atlanta, it is the based-on-fact story of Leo Frank (Scot Greenwell), a factory manager wrongly accused of the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagen (Hillary Larman).
The show deals with anti-Semit-ism and the pervasive Southern resentment of Northerners, as well as love that can be discovered even under dire circumstances.
Greenwell plays his part of the fussy Yankee Jew well, carrying his vocal numbers gracefully. Claire Wilcher as his wife, Lucille, has the most powerful voice among the principals, with an exceptional rendition of “You Don’t Know This Man” being her standout number.
The foils include prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Dustin D. Podgorski), who coaches witnesses into giving damning testimony because he needs a conviction to offset his sagging record, and pressmen Britt Craig (Michael Davis) and Tom Watson (John Sparkman), who turn the trial into pulp fiction for their papers. All three communicate their smarmy intentions in the hopes of making gains for themselves.
The cast is monstrous, but other standouts are Carvis Herron Jr. as Jim Conley, the man whose testimony nails Frank’s case, as well as the small numbers by John O’Brien as Frankie Epps, love interest to Larman’s Mary Phagen, as well as Larman herself. Vocal director John D. Phillips does good work getting this large group up to snuff.
On the downside, some sound issues often made vocal pieces hard to hear as mikes created too much fuzz to understand lyrics. Early on, the live orchestra backstage drowned out the actors.
Director D. Scott Robinson has the dual challenges of a long show and a large cast. While the show feels every bit as long as it is, Robinson keeps the stage from looking cramped or chaotic. Picking up the pace or trimming some of the longer pauses might help shorten the run time.
Costuming has a period feel, thanks to Linda Rowand, and set designer Aaron B. Bailey has created a cunning set that not only serves well for all the scenes, but acts as prop storage as well. A tree is the dominant feature, keeping the knowledge of Frank’s eventual demise forefront for the audience.
Buck Creek is gaining a reputation for taking on musicals that are intriguing and important — such as Violet, Side Show and, most recently, Spitfire Grill — that other theaters haven’t, and all of them were done exceptionally well. Kudos for taking on yet another with Parade.
Parade continues at Buck Creek Players, 11150 Southeastern Ave., through June 17. Tickets are only $15 ($13 for children, students and senior citizens). Call 317-862-2270 for reservations or go to www.buckcreekplayers.com.