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  • Theatre, Musicals
  • Seymour Centre, Darlington
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  2. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  3. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  4. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  5. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  6. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  7. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen
  8. Parade - Sydney 2024 production
    Photograph: Soundworks Productions/Matthew Chen

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

There are moments of brilliance to be discovered in this dark and dramatic musical, which traces a historic murder case with frightening relevance to today

Musicals are often a product of their time. So, it is somewhat expected that the show will reflect the sentiment, the tragedy, the conflict and the beliefs of that time. What is rare, however, is when a revival of a musical manages to find that stark relevance again, as if history is repeating itself. Off the back of the celebrated Broadway revival starring Ben Platt, this new staging of Parade arrives in Sydney following a sold-out Melbourne premiere in July 2023. 

First staged in 1998, Parade is based on the true story of the 1913–1915 trial, imprisonment, and lynching of Leo Frank (Aaron Robuck – The Great Gatsby: An Immersive Theatrical Experience). A Jewish man from Brooklyn, Frank was a fish out of water amongst the residents of Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked as the superintendent of a pencil factory. When he was accused of the tragic assault and murder of a 13-year-old girl named Mary Phagan (Adeline Hunter – Urinetown), the townsfolk’s prejudices and the sensationalist media coverage of the trial stirred up a storm of antisemitic tension.

Witness tampering and scapegoating by the local police force led to Frank being landed with a guilty verdict, a ruling which most modern researchers strongly disagree with. Most significantly, the historic trial spurred the formation of the Anti-Defamation League, whilst concurrently initiating the revival of the Klu Klux Klan.

Despite some difficulties...this show succeeds in reminding the audience that prejudice, hate, and the misuse of power have led to tragedies – and that there are lessons that apply today.

Decades after that contested trial, Parade was co-conceived and directed by Harold Prince, with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Bridges of Madison County). It opened to mixed reviews, and many of the criticisms that were raised then, remain now. 

When the Broadway revival opened in 2023, neo-Nazis protested one of the preview performances. (History did, in fact, repeat itself.) Thankfully, there were no such protests during its Australian premiere run at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel, prompting local producers Soundworks Productions to bring it to Sydney’s Seymour Centre.

Despite some challenges, there are moments of brilliance within this production’s 150-minute run time. Designer Harry Gill implements simple yet effective props and costuming to transport audiences to an ambiguous factory floor in early 1900s Georgia. The cohesive stage design moves seamlessly between scenes, and video projections are tastefully used to centre the audience in time and place. Lighting Designer Sidney Younger illuminates the set with creative flair – the use of red light in Robuck’s performance of ‘Come Up to My Office' is particularly brilliant, working in tandem with Freya List’s choreography to depict the treacherous predator that everyone believes Frank to be. 

As far as performances go, Montana Sharp (a familiar face in Melbourne’s live music scene) steals the show – reprising the role of Frank’s long-suffering wife Lucille, she garners the audience's sympathies with the strongest vocal performance of the cast. Meanwhile, the show’s central anthem ‘This is Not Over Yet’ is Robuck’s strongest vocal performance, and embodies the hope of impending change. Meanwhile, Maverick Newman (Murder for Two) delivers his usual poignant charm to infuse sketchy reporter Britt Craig with an intriguing  appeal.

It's unfortunate that the show’s Black characters are underdeveloped, and given only a few songs to present their perspective. Regardless, Quinton Rofail Rich (Choir Boy) and Tarisai Vush (Madiba the Musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) give a stellar performance of ‘A Rumblin’ and a Rollin’ at the top of the second act. Guillaume Gentil (Passing Strange, The Color Purple) also delivers an emphatic solo performance of ‘Feel the Rain Fall’, garnering enthusiastic applause from the audience on opening weekend.

As is with many musicals based on true stories, Uhry’s book gets caught up in laying out the details and differing perspectives of the event – leading to lengthy, fact-focused scenes. The show's emotional centre, the relationship between the bristly, reserved Leo Frank and his dedicated and generous wife, Lucille, is not given enough space to grow. For the most part, the other characters are mere caricatures of the American South, leaving the audience without much in the way of fully fleshed out characters or relationships to sink their teeth into.

Brown’s score is equally dense, drawing on pop-rock, folk, jazz, blues and gospel to deliver subtle melodies that are pleasing but not very memorable. The songs are also technically difficult to deliver, with multiple key changes, conflicting and counter melodies, tempo changes and rapid-fire jumps in octave occurring within a single phrase. As a result, the performance teeters heavily on the skill and synergy of its orchestra and its performers. Unfortunately, on the opening weekend of the production in Sydney, there was a notable lack of synchronicity, making for a jarring listen at times, with several performers sounding off-key or off-tempo. (It's likely a sound mixing challenge specific to the Seymour’s Everest Theatre, as it seemed to be more apparent if you were sitting closer to the stage.)  

Despite some technical difficulties, Parade is a worthwhile night out for dedicated musical theatre lovers. Although the Melbourne season was just shy of a year ago, this dark tale has returned to the stage at a time when its themes are even more tense and uncomfortable. Where this show succeeds however, is in reminding the audience that prejudice, hate, and the misuse of power have led to tragedies in our past – and that there are lessons in that which apply to the global conflicts and local prejudices we see playing out today. 

Tip: Time Out recommends you select seats in rows G or higher to get the most out of the production. 

Parade is playing in the Everest Theatre at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale, until May 25, 2024. Tickets are $69-$99 and on sale over here. Follow @paradeau on Instagram for updates throughout the season. A special panel discussion with the creative team on the themes of the musical called 'Where will you stand?' will be held post-show on May 19. 

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Vaanie Krishnan
Written by
Vaanie Krishnan


Seymour Centre
University of Sydney
Cnr Cleveland St & City Rd
Opening hours:
Mon 7pm, Wed-Sat 7pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm (no show on Fri May 17)

Dates and times

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