True story of 1913 unsolved murder case marches onto Tower Theater stage in 'Parade'
A story showcasing integrity in the face of hardship and the dangers of mob mentality, paired with a grand musical score performed by a large ensemble and orchestra, will take place at the Tower Theater as the Alluvion Stage Company’s production of “Parade” opens on Jan. 31.
A Tony-winning musical originally performed on Broadway in 1998, “Parade” shares the tragically true story of Leo Frank and his 1913 court trial that embodied the deep tensions and prejudices of his town and time. Accused of the murder of Mary Phagan, Frank, a Jewish man originally from New York, becomes the target of sensationalism and discrimination within his local community in Georgia, and his bond with his wife is strengthened in an effort to hold on to the truth.
Linda Nell Cooper, the show’s director and Alluvion’s artistic director, explained the story as an example of how a mob can bypass the truth in favor of fulfilling their preconceptions.
“It’s a story about a community coming together, and sometimes when a community comes together it’s wrong,” Cooper said. “The story is somewhat of a tragedy, but the musical itself is almost uplifting in that it shows one man facing difficulty and lies about him by keeping his honor and integrity, or that his wife stands by him and becomes a stronger person because she learns what integrity means.”
Despite the somber subject matter, Cooper said this show brings with it a stunning score played by a 21-piece orchestra — the largest ever featured in an Alluvion production — and gorgeous choreography. Cooper described the music as some of the best she has ever heard and is excited for audiences to hear the large chorus’ voices fill the theater and see returning performers from past productions. The show features a 45-member cast with 17 alumni.
“It’s an epic sort of show, like ‘Ragtime’ or ‘Les Miserables,’ where the music sweeps across the stage, and this is an opportunity for audiences to see and hear one of our highest standards of musicals,” Cooper said. “There are faces that people haven’t seen at Liberty in maybe five or six years that they’re going to love seeing and hearing again.”
Liberty theater professor Andy Geffken plays Leo Frank, a man who kept to himself, he said, and had trouble fitting in with his neighbors in an anti-Semitic, post-Civil War South. These racial and social factors, as Geffken described, create “a perfect storm” for this case to devolve into a mob-ruled conviction.
“He was an outsider, and it was almost too easy to pin it on this guy without the facts just because they didn’t like him,” Geffken said. “‘Parade’ is kind of different from the productions we usually do, and I think that’s attractive to people who come and see the shows. This is a chance to see something that people can be really challenged by.”
Audrey Moore (’15), a professional actress, plays Leo’s wife, Lucille, a woman is faced with the situation of having to help defend her husband and their shared integrity in the face of a prejudiced trial. The couple gains a deeper respect for one another as the case continues, and reconciliation happens in their marriage.
Moore said the themes in the story are not that far removed from what today’s society is experiencing.
“A big theme in the show is sensationalism, which is very much relevant to today,” Moore said. “When accusations or news come out, people have a tendency to freak out and sensationalize the details and not really give people a fair trial in the social sphere, even if they are getting one in the judicial (system).”
With a script that includes updated information and characters relating to the case, which is still listed as unsolved, Cooper said Alluvion’s production will perform this real story in as much accuracy as possible and raise questions about the truth.
“Even to this day it’s an unsolved case, so it makes the audience ask questions of what the real story is and what really happened,” Cooper said. “The story can’t change because that’s the way it was, but we get to be creative in the way we tell it.”
Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 7, 8, 14*, 15 - 7:30 p.m.
Feb.1, 8, 15** - 2 p.m.
Feb. 2, 9, 16 - 3 p.m.
*Talkback Performance **ASL Interpreted Performance
To purchase tickets, visit Tickets.Liberty.edu or call (434) 582-SEAT (7328) during weekday business hours.