Although Jason Robert Brown’s Tony Award-winning play is now some 15 years old, it is a seldom-performed show. One of the constraints is the scale of the cast: this production is to be applauded in bringing this rarely seen piece to the Fringe.
Set in the American South of 1913, the plot centres on the true story concerning the death of a young girl and the subsequent prosecution of her Jewish manager at her place of work, Leo Frank. Dealing with issues such as anti-Semitism and racism and the child’s death, this show looks at attitudes and beliefs and how society dealt with these matters over a century ago. The piece has a weakness in its focus on the masculine gaze. Although this is true to the period, opportunities to explore points of view beyond those ‘handed-down’ are missed.
The show has clearly been cut for the length required in Fringe time slots: it would be reasonable to assume that there is a great deal more text than survives in this production. Some of the directorial choices are puzzling, stifling elements of the character and plot development.
The portrayals of Leo Frank and his wife, Lucille, are strong points in this show – two very finely-judged performances. Their final scene as a couple, a picnic in his prison cell, is genuinely touching without becoming sentimental. The duet ‘All the Wasted Time’ is beautifully delivered and trusts the song to do its job perfectly.
At a running time of almost two hours, be prepared for a longer show than is normal on the Fringe – a solemn, interesting tale with some beautiful musical numbers that remain with you for days afterwards.
* Oneoff Productions