Theatre review: LUTG’s Parade

★★★★★

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Photograph: LUTG

Based on a true story, this Toni award winning musical presented by LUTG is definitely going to be pulling at a few heart strings this week.

Transporting us to 1913 Georgia, Frankie (Matt Dobie) bookends this musical with confident and engaging solos showing just one perspective of the journey we are taken on. And it wasn’t just the performance; the fantastic manipulation of minimal set allows us to hop seamlessly between the cute playing flirtation of Frankie and Mary Phagan (Cat Hitchcock) and the all too real tensions of marriage between Leo (Josh Utting) and Lucille Frank (Jess Turton). It’s fair to say I was invested in them all from the beginning.

Like Frankie, I felt I was just getting to know little Mary when things are shaken beyond what we’re expecting. I’ll be surprised if there’s a dry eye in the audience at this point particularly after Matt’s passionate response to tragedy. Again, the actors did a fantastic job but the goosebumps from the suspended violin and the chill of the lighting effects combined with the atmospheric stage smoke leave no doubt of the acute pain of friendship and loss.

But it’s not all pain and loss as Ewen Roberts presents a comedic performance among tragedy as a very believable drunk. It’s almost like he’s practiced in the art, or maybe just got a quick tipple from the band backstage. Having said that, I must congratulate Musical Director, Alex Hardgrave, because the band were on point throughout the show with so much music to learn and thankfully, what happens backstage, stays backstage. I don’t know how they did it with such a music heavy show and so little time.

Shortly after, we got to explore the real meaning of justice and racism as each witness certainly brought the courtroom to life. I was amazed at the beautiful voice of Cat Hitchcock as little Mary made her return in the statements while simultaneously disturbed by the uncomfortable account from the factory workers involving Leo Frank and driven close to tears by the gut wrenching cry from Mrs Phagan (Sophie Goodman). The question is what’s the verdict?

Cue the interval before diving straight back into the tensions of Leo and Lucille Frank and the challenges of being in love and being in prison. Throughout this act they present a dynamic duo of the little hope we can find in this musical. These challenges are only made more real as convicts coming in from the audience force us to make our own decisions on justice, topped with a fantastic and suave solo from Jim Conley (Eduardo Medina) as we decide.

We are indulged with one more glimmer of hope between Leo and Lucille as their trials of love continue and by this point, I just wanted to run on stage and join their picnic it was so adorable. An incredibly moving performance of love through near impossible circumstances to the gorgeous backdrop of All the Wasted Time. If you’re not an emotional wreck by this point, you’re doing better than me. This constant search and struggle for justice is enough to stir anyone.

After starting this musical just seven weeks ago, it all came together from the directing and producing of Robbie Love, Katherine Dodds and Abi Beaven respectively, right down to the very semiquavers of the clarinet part, every detail was thought of. I for one am very much looking forward to opening night when every little quirk is ironed out and the rest of the audience are transported to a very emotional 1913 Georgia. If I had to pick a man of the match? That’s a tough one when in all honesty, everyone came together for a great show but I have to say, it’s a close call between the truly standout performances from Josh Utting as principal man, Leo Frank and Harry Messenger on violin. But you will have to make your own verdict as it is well worth a watch. The only question is, who killed Mary Phagan?