Tag Archives: Natalie Green

Parade, Southwark Playhouse

18 Aug

Alastair Brookshaw

I went to see Parade at the Southwark Playhouse last week. It’s a musical with music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Alfred Uhry and based on the real murder of 13-year old Mary Phagan in Altanta/Georgia in 1913, for which the Jewish factory manager Leo Frank was blamed and abducted from prison and lynched. Due to the antisemitism surrounding his trial and lynching many Jews fled the state afterwards. It has never been established who the real murderer was.

I never saw the Donmar production, so I’ve got nothing to (visually) compare it to, but I love the cast recording and there are some lovely melodies in it.

The musical starts off with a young soldier (played by Samuel J. Weir – lovely, strong voice!) in Georgia, who is about to go to fight for “the old red hills of home” during the American Civil War. The story then jumps forward to 1913 where the same soldier, now old, is about to take part in the Confederate Memorial Day parade. A woman has prepared a picnic for herself and her husband, but Leo Frank (Alastair Brookshaw), who is originally from New York and now manages a factory in Atlanta, refuses to take part in the festivities and insists he needs to go to work. Watching the parade, he makes it quite clear that he doesn’t belong there (“How Can I Call This Home?”).

Laura Pitt-Pulford

Meanwhile, some teenagers, among them 13-year old Mary Phagan, who works in Frank’s factory and her admirer Frankie Epps, enjoy the festivities, until Mary leaves to collect her pay and is later found murdered in the basement of the factory.

Soon, Leo Frank finds himself to be the prime suspect of the murder. After a rather dubious trial and false allegations, he is found guilty and sentenced to death. His wife Lucille (Laura Pitt-Pulford), however, refuses to give up and convinces the governor to re-open the case. He finally changes his sentence to life, knowing very well that this is political suicide, as the people of Atlanta are convinced that it must have been Frank. They decide to kidnap him and lynch him. Even facing his death, Frank refuses to admit his guilt and is hanged. Once more, the Confederate Memorial Day Parade starts and there is a reprise of “The Old Red Hills of Home”.

Having read a bit about the real murder case (which is still unsolved), I found it very interesting that the musical quite clearly takes the side of those who believe that Leo Frank was innocent and even shows us the “real” murderer in the last scene: the African-American factory janitor Jim Conley.

Samantha Seager

Therefore, the villains of the musical are the prosecutor Dorsey (Mark Inscoe) and the publisher Watson (Simon Bailey), who agitate the masses with their wrong claims about Frank, which in the end leads to his death.

This approach also means that I felt sympathy for Leo Frank right from the beginning, which obviously is mostly due to Alastair Brookshaw’s interpretation. He played him as very awkward around other people, even his wife, and his coldness towards her in the beginning merely a result of this awkwardness. Still, he also had an arrogant side, which he displayed during the court room scenes, up until “It’s Hard To Speak My Heart”, which was very moving. His “Sh’ma” at the end and that whole scene was so intensely acted I found it hard to just sit there and watch.

Laura Pitt-Pulford’s Lucille Frank was very strong. Her “What Am I Waiting For” in the beginning and “Do It Alone”, when Leo doesn’t want her to get involved, were heartbreaking, as was her duet with Leo “All The Wasted Time” when they finally declare their love for each other. There is a big focus on their changing relationship, which makes the end so hard to watch. Still, they are in no way perfect, both have their faults and weaknesses, which is another reason why it’s so easy to relate to them and their story.

Alastair Brookshaw & Laura Pitt-Pulford

Jessica Bastick-Vines is a very sweet, innocent Mary Phagan and really doesn’t look much older than her character’s age. Samantha Seager, who plays her mother, sings a very heartfelt rendition of “My Child Will Forgive Me” during Frank’s trial.

Samuel J Weir & Mark Inscoe

However, for me the “star of the show” (next to Laura Pitt-Pulford and Alastair Brookshaw) was Samuel J. Weir. He’s got a great voice, but it was his acting which completely convinced me. There was so much emotion in his voice in “There Is A Fountain/It Don’t Make Sense”, so much anger, desperation and also helplessness. Even during the abduction and lynching I couldn’t really bring myself to dislike Frankie. He is definitely one to look out for in the future!

They are ably supported by Kelly Agbowu, Simon Bailey, Michael Cotton, Terry Doe, Natalie Green, David Haydn, Mark Inscoe (His “Twenty Miles From Marietta” was one of the highlights for me.), Abiona Omonua, Philip Rham and Victoria Sierra, who play various supporting roles.

The Company

The Southwark Playhouse is a very interesting venue with the auditorium situated in a vault, which added to the atmosphere very well. The staging was very simple. There were only wooden floorboards and chairs/tables etc. were brought in by cast members when needed. I really liked it, because it put the main focus on the musical itself. I did wonder in the interval how they would manage to do the hanging without it looking completely fake or tacky, but I shouldn’t have worried, because it was done very effectively.

The sound, unfortunately, wasn’t that great. The music was too loud at several points and drowned out the singing, even though the actors had microphones.

For me, Parade in general and this production of it in particular is pretty much a perfect musical. It’s the perfect example that musicals can tackle more serious topics and don’t need big dance numbers etc. Instead, it does a lot more than that: It moves you and makes you think (sometimes a bit too much, congratulations if you are still reading this ;-)) and it has some great songs in it. Add to this an incredibly talented cast and what more could you possibly want?!?

Philip Rahm & Company

PHOTO CREDIT: Annabel Vere

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The Sunday Night Singers present the Music of Jonathan Eiø, Canal Cafe Theatre

27 Jun

I attended The SUNDAY NIGHT SINGERS present the Music of Jonathan Eiø at the Canal Cafe Theatre yesterday. Jonathan was joined by Natalie Green, James Bisp, Laura Cottrell, Simon Ouldred, Amanda Roberts and Alex Ruocco, as well as Katie Brayben and Adam Rhys-Davies, who are both currently in John & Jen at the Landor Theatre.

As well as singing Jonathan Eiø’s own songs, they also performed songs from composers such as Jason Robert Brown and others. It was a perfect mix of comic songs and ballads and the cast was great. I especially liked the voices of James Bisp and Laura Cottrell.

I liked all the songs, but the highlights for me were:

Simon Ouldred’s first song. I unfortunately didn’t catch its title, but it was hilarious, as were his facial expressions.

I loved the song from John & Jen that Katie Brayben and Adam Rhys-Davies sang and it made me wish I could go and see it, which I unfortunately can’t. But the story sounds very intriguing and they both have great voices.

Around, sung by Alex Ruocco. It’s such a catchy song, I found it impossible to get it out my head for days after I first listened to it.

Sandbox is another incredibly beautiful song written by Jonathan Eiø. I love the lyrics.

Somehow, sung by James Bisp and Hey Louise, sung by Jonathan Eiø himself with the rest of the cast joining in, are my favourite songs on his album. James’s got one of the best voices I’ve ever heard.

I really enjoyed the afternoon, in spite of the incredible heat. How the singers coped I will never know, especially Simon Ouldred who came on in a jumper for aforementioned song.

Jonathan Eiø’s two albums are available from Dress Circle or iTunes. They are both great, but I think I slightly prefer the second one. It’s very easy to listen to and perfect to just relax.He writes stunning ballads, but also great uptempo songs.

He will also be a guest at Jack Shalloo’s cabaret at the Battersea Barge in August, for which you can book tickets here.

Spring Awakening, UK Tour

10 Jun

When Frank Wedekind’s play Frühlings Erwachen – Eine Kindertragödie was published in 1891 it caused a scandal and it wasn’t until 1906 that it was performed at the Berliner Kammerspiele under the direction of Max Reinhardt. For decades it had been banned or subjected to censorship due to its alleged obscene content.

While some people claim that the play is now dated, I couldn’t disagree more and this musical adaption shows that it is still as relevant as it was when Wedekind first wrote it. Suicide is one of the most common causes of death among teenagers, teenage pregnancies, peer pressure – it all still exists.

I must admit that I wasn’t won over by the musical when I saw it during it’s very short West End run a couple of years ago. I liked the songs, but it didn’t move me in any way. I’ve read the original play many times and it’s one of the most intense and thought-provoking plays I know, but the performances left me completely cold.

That, however, has changed now. I thought this cast was phenomenal. Victoria Serra (Wendla) has a lovely voice and was very believable. Both Billy Cullum (Moritz) and Jonathan Eio (Melchior) have strong voices, but is was their acting that impressed me most. It was so honest and sincere, I personally don’t know how they manage to go through all these emotion every day (or even twice a day). And Then There Were None, Don’t Do Sadness, Left Behind and Those You’ve Known were the highlights of the show for me.

James Benn (Hanschen) and Zachary Morris (Ernst) worked very well together, and for once there was no laughing during their scene in Act II.

I liked Anna McGarahan’s voice in The Dark I Know Well, it blended so well with Jill Armour’s (Ilse), but I still think that the staging of this song is dreadful. It just didn’t work for me and lost all its impact.

Daniel Buckley (Otto),  Natalie Green (Thea), Jess Mack (Anna), Dale Page (Georg), Jane Stanton (Adult Woman), Robert Eyles (Adult Male) were good too, though they have less to work with than the others.

The only weakness of the production is, in my opinion, the direction. Some of it works really well, but other scenes (such as the aforementioned The Dark I Know Well and the graveyard scene) just don’t and are awkward to watch. The talented cast make up for this, however, and I’m glad I saw it.

I did wonder though, to what extent the German surnames and their meanings are lost on an English audience. Not that it’s really important, it just crossed my mind.