This year’s National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) residency at the Other Palace sees this remarkable theatre company tackle Jason Robert Brown’s Parade, a musical that is as technically demanding as its story is grim and harrowing.
To stage Parade at the Frogmore Paper Mill, a preserved factory that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, was an inspired idea from director Dan Cowtan.
My favourite moments of the shows that I saw in 2016 are below and include performances from across the UK, together with the USA and also Europe. Theatre, cabaret, dance and concert performances are all included and there’s no ranking.
With Christmas in full swing, it feels like a good time to look back at the highlights of a busy year for theatre in Manchester. Here are Upstaged Manchester’s theatrical highlights of 2016. Which shows would make your list?
Manchester’s theatre scene has long been something to celebrate, as there is such a range of diverse venues and productions. Fringe theatre is thriving alongside the usual ATG fare and something amazing has emerged 15 minutes away from Manchester Piccadilly. The Hope Mill Theatre in Ancoats is currently home to director James Baker’s stunning production of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade.
The dimly lit, eerie walls of Manchester’s newest performance space, Hope Mill Theatre stand with pride to present the harrowing true story about the trial of Leo Frank. Frank was a Jewish pencil factory manager in Atlanta who was tried for raping and murdering Mary Phagan in 1913. The intimate performance space in the old cotton mill provides the perfect backdrop for this emotionally charged and troubling narrative driven by the murder of the thirteen-year-old girl in the factory where she worked.
As musicals go, Jason Robert Brown’s Parade is a tough gig. His Tony-winning score is an immense fusion of the sounds of America’s South, tackling a monstrous story of love in adversity and the utter depths of man’s capacity to hate. The Leo Frank trial in the early 20th century split America, laying bare the racist core of the Confederacy. 80 years later, Brown’s show was to become a troubling piece that held a mirror to its country’s soul – a mirror that to this day a large part of that nation still resolutely refuses to look in.
As Jason Robert Brown’s Parade opens at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre this week, I was invited to write the Foreword for the production’s programme.With the producers’ permission, my article is reprinted below.
Jason Robert Brown’s Parade is a beautifully constructed Tony-winner of a show that shuttered early. Broadway’s loss was to prove London’s gain, as Rob Ashford (who was the original show’s dance captain) went on to stage a sell-out run at the Donmar Warehouse in 2007, before Thom Southerland was to match his feat at the Southwark Playhouse some 4 years later.