Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: 3-D Theatricals PARADE

Jeff Skowron as Leo Frank. Photos by Isaac James Creative

The 36-member cast of 3-D Theatricals’ Parade crackles with so much energy onstage in Plummer Auditorium that at any moment it feels like something is about to explode. Given its tragic subject matter, and the fact that the story is based on actual events, that is exactly the effect that director T.J. Dawson’s intends.

The musical carries significant meaning for Dawson as program notes reveal that it is the show that made him want to become a director; an understandable response because it would be hard to believe than anyone could witness this show and not be deeply moved. The sickening injustices and corruption in Alfred Uhry’s story, and the richly consuming textures of Jason Robert Brown’s score, create a powerful tapestry for 3-D’s expertly rendered production.

Jeff Skowron gives a magnificent performance as the wrongly accused Leo Frank as does Caitlin Humphreys who portrays his wife Lucille. Both are a drastic departure from the last roles I saw them in locally – Skowron as Dr. Chilton in Silence! the Musical and Humphreys as Kate Monster & Lucy the Slut in 3-D’s Avenue Q. Skowron’s incredibly compelling courtroom testimony, his creepy/great fantasy sequence acting out the young girls’ fake story, and his final heartbreaking duet with Lucille are only a few of the many scenes that showcase his amazing versatility. Humphreys exhibits a maturity beyond her years with some unexpected power belting that only intensifies as the story progresses.

Other impressive performances include dramatic turns by a quartet of heavy-hitters: Norman Large (Hugh Dorsey), Robert Yacko (Governor Slaton), Gordon Goodman (Tom Watson), and Rufus Bonds, Jr., who each add to the dramatic tension in his own powerful way.

Zachary Ford [pictured right] plays a sensational drunk (and he sings like a drunk too). The last time I saw a truly effective drunk in a musical was Greg Jbara’s performance in Michael John LaChuisa’s Little Fish at the Blank Theatre in 2007. Ford’s version is a sleazy reporter looking for a way to become famous who comically stumbles though his big number “Big News” and eventually lands in a trash barrel before getting the chance of a lifetime with the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank story.

Unforgettable stage pictures like Daguerreotype images brought to life are woven throughout the show, set off by Shon Le Blanc’s early 1900’s costumes, Jean-Yves Tessier’s intense lighting, and Tom Buderwitz’s dual level set design. Act I’s final picture of the Franks slowly walking downstage, eyes stoically ahead, through the growing chaos of the crowd to the escalating dissonance in Jason Robert Brown’s music, is riveting.

Musical director David Lamoureux has created a sensational wall of sound when his 36 singers all converge at once. The result is robust, though almost overwhelming at times, but Brown’s music makes great emotional demands on its singers and collectively they are an impassioned ensemble. Each number, from the opening “The Old Red Hills of Home” to its reprise in the show’s finale, stylistically develops a piece of the story or an emotion of a moment within its complex musical structure and this company’s fine work is buttoned-up to a one.

All of these singular pieces add up to one of the finest productions to date by 3-D Theatricals who has raised the bar for quality and artistic integrity in Southern California theatre.

Through May 26, 2013. 3-D Theatricals at Plummer Auditorium, 201 East Chapman Ave, Fullerton Ca. 92832. For tickets call (714) 589-2770 x 1 or go to

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