SMC to open spring musical Thursday

Published 8:32 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Elizabeth Carpenter, who plays the show’s heroine, Lucille Frank, delivers a solo near the beginning of the second act. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Elizabeth Carpenter, who plays the show’s heroine, Lucille Frank, delivers a solo near the beginning of the second act. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Unlike many of the other productions he has led at Southwestern Michigan College, Director Paul Mow said the school’s rendition of the Tony Award winning musical “Parade” is not a light-hearted affair.

The two-act musical is based off an actual event in U.S. history, the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager in Atlanta who was accused in 1913 of murdering one his workers, 13-year-old Mary Phagan.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Mow said. “It isn’t filled with comfy fluff like a lot of musicals. It deals with serious subjects.”

Mow and his cast of nearly 60 will be debuting the show for local audiences on Thursday at the Dowagiac campus’ Dale A. Lyons Building at 7:30 p.m. The show will also run on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m.

The cast — which is assembled from SMC students, faculty and local high school students — has been rehearsing for the musical since around mid-February after being cast in December, Mow said.

“The snow hasn’t helped us much this year,” Mow said. “It’s been tough to get the kids here for rehearsal on a regular basis, especially since some of them are coming from miles away.”

Headlining this year’s production will be Danny Ferenczi, of Niles, who will be playing Frank. Elizabeth Carpenter, of Schoolcraft, plays his wife Lucille, who becomes Frank’s sole defender after the town turns against him.

While the struggles of these two characters are the lynchpin of the show, Mow said that it’s very much “an ensemble piece.”

“Parade” debuted on Broadway in 1998, originally directed by Harold Prince, with music and lyrics created by Jason Robert Brown. The musical went on to receive a number of awards the following year, including Outstanding Musical from the Drama Desk awards and Best Original Score from the Tony awards.

In addition to exploring the human drama behind the century-old trial, the musical also deals with themes such as racism and the dangers of sensationalist, politically motivated media outlets.

“These themes are still relevant today,” Mow said. “It deals with issues that our society continues to contend with on a regular basis.”

Mow has directed two other musical productions with SMC, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” However, this the first time he’s helmed a project with the gravitas seen in “Parade,” Mow said.

“It’s a great show,” he said. “It’s moving and compelling. I love plays like this that make people ponder at the end of the show.”

In addition to the shows this weekend, the musical’s composer, Brown, will be visiting the campus this week. At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the school will hold a special concert featuring his music, and at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Brown will share his years of knowledge in a special master class. Both events are free.

Tickets for “Parade” are currently on sale, and will be available for purchase at the venue or online on SMC’s website. General admission costs $7, with $5 for seniors. People 18 and younger or those with an SMC student ID can watch for free.

For additional information, visit the musical’s website,