Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 8, 2018

Review: Opera House Players, Parade

Opera House Players, Broad Brook, CT
through May 20, 2018
by Shera Cohen

“Parade” is going to be a tough show for Opera House Players to sell. First, the title is a misnomer. Second, virtually no one has ever heard of it. Third, the story is very difficult to watch. Rape, murder, feigned-justice, and bigotry do not make for a fun evening at the theatre. However, in the Opera House’s 15 years of performances, “Parade” can be singled out as its finest, skillfully-executed production.

Based on the true drama of Leo Frank, a New York Jew living in Georgia at the turn of the last century, the story is gritty, dramatic, and oftentimes embarrassing to watch. Set 50 years after the Civil War, the characters are bitter and cruel. For them, the Confederate flag, which is situated squarely in the center of the stage, is paramount in their minds, their hearts, and their words. Enter, newcomer Frank, married to a Southern Jewess, into this hostile world. The outcast Franks become victims of their times. Unfortunately, this is no surprise to the audience.

Sharon FitzHenry directs her large cast on a minimalistic stage with moveable platforms that create multiple indoor and outdoor settings. Credit to set designer Francisco Aguas who constructs slight but important visuals with dual purposes; shadows on the flag become jail cell walls.

Arguably, “Parade” boasts the most talented community theatre voices in the Valley. Both Michael King (news reporter) and Tim Reilly (district attorney) are given a good deal of stage time. Both are excellent in their roles. Kings’ “Real Big News” offers some of the few light moments in the play. Reilly’s solos are exquisite, at the same time portraying evil personified. Carl Cannella (Leo Frank) is an unsympathetic protagonist. Basically, he’s not a nice guy, and an awful husband. Cannella effectively gives Frank an air of entitlement and selfishness. The audience wants to like Leo. He is not a mensch.

The full ensemble, with some voices singled out on occasion, prove that Director FitzHenry and Producer Moonyean Field selected their cast carefully. Bill Martin, one of the most employed Music Directors within a 60- mile radius, is as talented as ever.

The star of “Parade” is Lindsay Botticello (Lucille Frank). Oftentimes, musicals are populated with singer who can act, or the reverse, actors who can sing. Botticello gets an A+ at both. She portrays a woman whose love for her husband is minimal, yet her efforts to save him are unrelenting. Where did Opera House find this gem? Hopefully, she will return.

“Parade” is the final production of the Opera House Players before locating to Enfield in the fall.