Southwestern Michigan College’s spring musical, “Parade,” stars Danny Ferenczi of Edwardsburg and Eliza Carpenter of Schoolcraft as Leo and Lucille Frank, Rebecca DePumpo from Lakeshore High School as “Little Mary” Phagan and Andrew Fisher from Berrien Springs as Jim Dorsey.
Logan Black, an Edwardsburg High School graduate from Niles, portrays Prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, with Josh Bungart and Chelsea Thompson from Three Rivers as Georgia Gov. and Mrs. Slaton, Dakota Doberstein of Eau Claire as Frankie Epps and Darian Fountain from Three Rivers as newspaper publisher Tom Watson.
Also appearing in Jason Robert Brown’s 1999 Tony Award-winning dramatization of a sensational murder trial a century ago in Atlanta are Elyse Clark of Edwardsburg as Mrs. Phagan, Chloe Chavers of Comstock Park as Minnie McKnight, Justin McCoy of Coloma as defense attorney Rosser, Ben Thieme of Vandalia as Newt Lee, pencil factory night watchman, Jason Cope of Bellevue as Officer Ivey, Cameron Hampton of Benton Harbor as Angelo, prison guard Hunter Schuur of Dowagiac, Director of Choral Activities David Carew as Judge Roan and vocal instructor Marcus Roll as an old soldier.
Ensemble members include Leo Carmody, Emily Clark, Carson Collins, Samantha Craft, Jay Gary, Tylar Kowalewski, Antonio Little, Sebastian Martinez, Kacie Mercer, Equilla Reeves, Markey Walker and Solomon Oliver.
Several pre-college performers appeared in “Phantom of the Opera” last fall.
“No composer is better right now at using music to enhance storytelling,” said Theatre Director Paul Mow. “He’s tomorrow’s Sondheim. I’m so overwhelmed with joy to be able to bring him (to campus for a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and for a master class at 11 a.m. Thursday). He has two Broadway musicals right now” in “Bridges of Madison County” and “Honeymoon in Vegas,” with “The Last Five Years” becoming a movie.
“It’s unbelievable he’s coming to Dowagiac,” said Mow, who grew up in Coloma and spent five years with the New York City Opera.
“To be able to bring the composer to campus, I’ve preached to the students, ‘I never got to work with Puccini or Mozart.’ Being able to meet the composer of the piece they get to perform is unprecedented,” Mow said.
Parade, presented at 7:30 p.m. March 20-22 and at 2 p.m. March 23, dramatizes real-life events which transpired in Atlanta in 1913 against the backdrop of a South still reeling from the Civil War.
Parade will be presented on a red raked stage sloping upwards away from the audience to improve the view in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus. See swmich.edu/parade for ticket information.
When Phagan, a 13-year-old factory worker, is found murdered, Frank, the Brooklyn-bred Jewish manager, is accused.
By manipulating witnesses and tampering with evidence, the prosecution convinces jurors of Frank’s guilt. He is sentenced to hang, but Georgia’s governor commutes his sentence to life in prison.
“With themes of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia (fear of foreigners), Parade is very current with events today,” Mow said. “Parade sets us up for conversations on campus on the power of the media and fear-mongering tactics many TV stations use. News stories from Leo Frank’s time provide present-day readers an opportunity to better understand the prejudices of the time he lived. They remind us that as technology evolves, we must be alert to the media’s enduring power to shape public opinion and intense feelings of bias and hate.”
In “You Don’t Know This Man,” Carpenter sings her response to a newspaper reporter trying to drum up a story (Erik Thorsen of Benton Harbor).
Three teen-aged girls who worked in the factory are rehearsed by prosecutor to relate the same story about how they were ogled and propositioned by Frank.
Janitor Jim Conley, seen carrying “Little Mary’s” body, is also prepped.
“I portrayed this with my choreographer, Lea Thomas, to be a flashback of sorts,” Mow said of ‘That’s What He Said.’ “Conley is telling us what Leo said, so Leo is seen lip-synching. He does the same with the trio of girls,” Chelsea Hamm, a Niles High School student dual-enrolled at SMC; Megan Yocobozzi, a Lake Michigan Catholic seventh grader from Stevensville; and Katie Preston, a Bridgman eighth grader.
The court case ends the first act. In the second act, loyal Lucille lobbies tirelessly to clear her husband, their ordeal strengthening their relationship.
“They were both Jewish, so I’m sure it was a bit of an arranged marriage with only 500 Jews in Atlanta,” Mow said. “In ‘All the Wasted Time,’ one of the most beautiful duets in all of musical theatre, we see a celebratory visit where they both believe he will be moved to a different prison for his life sentence.”
“Parade” involves controversial and sometimes graphic subject matter that is not suitable for children.