Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Parade at the Arden Theatre

I'm SO late to this production because it ends its run this Sunday, but you still have time to go see it!

So go.

Because one of my friends is an understudy and had the advanced notice that she would be going on for a Tuesday morning performance at 10 o'clock, typically slated for high school students, I had the opportunity to go and see this wonderful production at an otherwise very odd time.

Although I can easily say Jason Robert Brown is one of my favorite composers, I have to be honest: I had no idea this production existed. When not thoroughly engaged in musical theater in New York City I do not pay attention to what is on Broadway; I'm usually too stuck in my own head. This Tony award-winning show should not be missed. And although Jason Robert Brown shows are not often performed I have seen more and more productions popping up as his name gets around and this is a fantastically good good thing. [Remember that big audition I was prepping for in back in April? It was another Jason Robert Brown play.]

I think one of his best features is his intimate way of portraying relationships and the delicate details therein. You know: the good and the bad and the sarcastic and light and the heavy and dark that you feel in a relationship all at the same time. And, well, neurotic New Yorkers. He's got those down...

This play centers on a true story: a trial in the America South in the early 1900s. The trial of a Jewish male factory supervisor who is accused of killing one of his young female factory workers. It's a story of how twisted southern morays were at that time and how a Jew on trial represents the rampant racism and prejudice pervading the south. Indeed, having grown up in the South and as we have all just witnessed in the Trayvon Martin case, racism, segregation, and violence still pervade our country. There are some eerily similar parallels in these cases made all the more eery that this all takes place a century before.

All seriousness aside it was a fantastic and entertaining production. The singing and music is just as detailed and intricate as the plot. And it also has wonderful notes of Sondheim, Bernstein, Joplin, and other musical styles of the era. Also I generally do not enjoy serious, heavy plots. I got mom stuff to do. I need a comedy. But because of the music, and small comedic moments, the show moves very well and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I think it's a very well-balanced script and score.

On a sidenote, although I have been acquainted with her for a few years now, this gave me my first chance to finally see one of the stars of Philadelphia theater perform: Jennie Eisenhower. She was remarkable. Amazing. A well trained and studied performance as the wife of the man on trial. Clearly, she is a star of her own making. I now see why she is one of the darlings of the Philadelphia theater scene. I can see how much of a chameleon she really is.

Another side note, is that because I had never previously been acquainted with this show I now have a few more audition snippets to look into. The role my friend Tabitha J. Allen was under-studying was the girl factory worker's mother, and as she gave testimony at the trial, a very small but highly emotional scene takes place and lends itself to a nice short audition piece. And you know I'm always looking for those mom-types! This friend is actually also my musical coach, and she has been known to yell at me to choose an audition piece less than 10 years old. So I think I will steal this one from her right off the bat. [Even though she will say it is actually 15 years old...sigh...]

And that starring female lead, played by Ms Eisenhower, is also rich in emotion and intelligent material that's ripe for the picking.

But the stand out in the show is by far played by Ben Dibble, who portrays Leo Frank, the man on trial. His nuanced performance with moments comedic, sexy, angry, and altogether highly emotional, is simply magnificent.  I read in the program that he is actually a theater professor. And I want him to be mine! So fitting that he mentioned this was a dream role for him. There is nothing like a Jason Robert Brown character. Never black-and-white: gray, just like our modern lives. It inspires me to find my dream-roles and focus on those productions that may pop up in the area. Also, to study those roles for possible audition material....which is something that all of my coaches/friends-in-the-biz have been telling me for a long time... as always, a dreamer. [I'll go into this further in my "New Goals Redux" later this week...]

Dream big, TwynMawrMom! You never know.

All of the actors are Philadelphia mainstays. On a personal note, it's very good for me to see the best-known actors in the region and the communities within the larger Philadelphia Theatre Community that make this town tick. What a lucky surprise that I was able to see a daytime production of this show. Methinks I have to get on some kind of list in the future so that I can attend all of these performances geared towards high school field trips... Or maybe I should just become a high school theater teacher.

And you? Dreaming big these days? 
Ah yes, what about? Do tell!

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