The Collective’s Parade – Reimagining the Theatrical Experience
When Parade opened on Broadway back in 1998, it unfortunately didn’t resonate with audiences closing only 89 performances later. In their current production of Parade, The Collective have completely reimagined the theatrical experience and found what the original Broadway production was missing to create an incredibly moving and involving piece of immersive theatre.
Parade dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank who was accused and convicted of murdering a thirteen-year-old girl. Confronting media sensationalism and anti-Semitism in the southern states of America, this musical broaches some pretty difficult topics complemented by an incredibly varied score by the every underappreciated Jason Robert Brown.
Despite the To Kill a Mockingbird nature of this show, it never became a hit in New York and The Collective’s most recent production highlights the reason behind the original production’s lack of success (while fixing it). The traditional theatre experience just doesn’t work for Parade.
The Collective’s Parade doesn’t take place in a traditional theatre – it takes place in the theatrical space at fortyfivedownstairs. The audience aren’t sitting in the traditional configuration – they are sitting in rows down either side of the venue facing each other with a large walkway in between providing the setting for most of the action. The actors aren’t confined to the traditional stage – they move up and down the room and in amongst the audience.
And this is why The Collective’s Parade works where the original production failed. The audience really feel the emotional torment of an intolerant society and the devastating mistrial because it is happening all around them. This encompassing experience is definitely the way forward for the future of theatre!
The highlight of the production is in the courtroom scene towards the end of Act 1. At this point, cast members take seats amongst the audience and transplant the audience from the theatre at fortyfivedownstairs to the mistrial. With the cast whispering to each other and objecting to the witnesses from within the audience, the audience experience is akin to being part of your own courtroom drama. Something that the traditional theatre experience is unable to replicate.
Cameron Macdonald (Britt Craig / Jack ‘The Governor’ Slaton), Tim Springs (Jim Conley), Laura Fitzpatrick (Lucille Frank) and Luigi Lucente (Leo Frank) all give standout performances leading this cast and it is clear that there are some big leading roles in these talented actors’ futures.
Ultimately, it is the immersive production design which lifts this musical to new heights. Rarely is the audience within a metre or two of all the action and rarely are they able to actually feel the ground shake beneath their feet as the blood-thirsty intolerant citizens of Georgia march for vengeance. It is this closeness and immersion which makes The Collective’s Parade an incredibly moving and memorable production.
The Collective’s Parade is currently playing at fortyfivedownstairs until the 28th of September. Make sure that you get to this sensational production because the theatrical experience is unlike anything you will have seen before with some fantastic performances.
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