5th Avenue Theatre Parade Hairspray Anything Goes 1776

writing: articles, sales copy, and editing


client: The 5th Avenue Theatre
project: Parade Articles

As the editor of the subscriber newsletter, I provided our audience with a detailed synopsis for each show.

A show synopsis of the sort I wanted usually did not exist — it would be either too short or too long. Also, I preferred weaving the song titles into the narrative.


Act I

Twenty miles from Atlanta, in a field in Marietta, Georgia, a young Confederate soldier leaves for the Civil War, proud to fight for the woman he loves and The Old Red Hills of Home.

Fifty-one years later, the weathered and peg-legged soldier is honored during Atlanta's Confederate Memorial Day parade (The Dream of Atlanta). Rueful Southerners, fearing the loss of their purely Southern identity, listen as he declares that he would still give his leg, or his life, for those treasures of Southern life which he holds dear.

At their home, Leo and Lucille Frank dress for the day. After two years of marriage, they are courteous but shy with each other. Indifferent to the festivities, Leo leaves for his job as superintendent of the National Pencil Company. He is enigmatic and reserved, and even after several years in Atlanta still feels like a stranger. Leo makes his way awkwardly through the patriotic crowds, wishing he were again in Brooklyn (How Can I Call This Home).

On a streetcar, Mary Phagan, a pretty 13-year-old girl, and Frankie Epps, her admirer, ride to town. Frankie, a vivacious 16-year-old flirt, invites Mary to The Picture Show. Mary instead goes to Leo's office at the National Pencil Company to collect her paycheck. Lucille Frank, still at her mirror, wonders if she's happy in her marriage; Leo, meanwhile, concentrates on work (Leo at Work/What Am I Waiting For?). The parade continues; nearby, Jim Conley, the factory janitor, sits under the factory stairs.

The next morning, the Franks receive a visit from police officers Starnes and Ivey. A murder has occurred at the factory. Newt Lee, the night watchman, has been arrested and Leo must identify the body. He recognizes her as Mary, the girl who came to his office the day before. While Newt is questioned (Interrogation: "I am trying to remember..."), Leo unwisely calls attention to himself; he seems more concerned about bad publicity than about the death of the girl. Sensing the police's suspicions, he begins to undress to show he has no bruises or scratches, but it is too late; he is arrested.

Britt Craig, a local reporter, no longer needs to lament the lack of Big News in Atlanta; he is now hot on the trail of the crime of the century. Lucille visits Leo in jail, while mourners gather outside for Mary's funeral (Funeral: There Is a Fountain/It Don't Make Sense). The press eagerly latches onto Leo as a suspect; Craig in particular hopes this Real Big News will revive his career. Hugh Dorsey, the power-hungry prosecuting attorney, also senses a career-boosting opportunity. The town is outraged over the crime; it is exactly what Southerners dreaded with the post-war infiltration of Northerners and industry. Lucille, hounded by the press, is at her wit's end (You Don't Know This Man).

The city's entire population swarms outside the courthouse for the trial (The Trial: People of Atlanta). Dorsey first presents Mary's family — forced to sell their farm and work in the factories (Twenty Miles From Marietta), an all-too-common story — then a series of incriminating testimonies: Frankie Epps, (Frankie's Testimony), several young factory girls (The Factory Girls/Come Up To My Office), and Mrs. Phagan (My Child Will Forgive Me). The worst damage is done by Jim Conley, who swears Leo made him carry Mary's dead body to the basement (That's What He Said).

Leo's lawyer, Luther Rosser, doesn't bother to cross-examine any of the witnesses, as they are all so preposterous. He instead puts Leo on the stand (Leo's Statement: "It's Hard To Speak My Heart"). Despite his simple, honest plea of innocence, Leo is the living example of the crowd's worst fears: a Jewish businessman from the North, in their eyes shifty, nervous, fast-talking, unemotional and, undoubtedly, a depraved murderer. The Grand Jury returns its verdict: Guilty. The crowd dances in the streets (Summation & Cakewalk) as Lucille and Leo embrace each other, terrified.

Act II

Leo is sentenced to death. Studying law books in his cell, Leo fires Rosser, files his next appeal himself, and tries to build support by informing the national press of his situation (A Rumblin' and a Rollin'). Lucille is desperate to help (Do It Alone) and attends a tea dance at Governor Slaton's Mansion; on the dance floor, she asks him to reopen the case (Pretty Music) to no avail. However, he soon receives a Letter to the Governor from Leo's trial judge, admitting that he may have made a mistake. The case is reopened, giving Leo and Lucille new hope (This Is Not Over Yet).

The Governor questions the trial witnesses himself — even Jim Conley, who is now on a chain gang (Blues: Feel the Rain Fall) — and discovers that they were all coaxed or forced to lie. On the day set for the hanging, the Governor announces to the assembled crowd that he has commuted Leo's sentence to life imprisonment in another, undisclosed prison. The people feel betrayed and demand Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?

Miles away, Leo and Lucille have a picnic in his new cell; deeply in love, they find their relationship is stronger and richer than ever before. They lament All the Wasted Time they had together before they realized the depth of their feelings and hope Leo will soon be able to return home, fully pardoned.

Later that night, Leo is pulled from his cell by a gang of men and lynched. Before he is hanged, Leo asks the men to give his wedding ring to his wife, then sings the Sh'ma, an affirmation of faith. Frankie Epps kicks the stool out from under Leo's feet. For Lucille, the deep and abiding love she finally discovered with Leo will live on in her heart and mind. For the town of Atlanta, there is another war to fight, only this time they will march with the North onto the international battlefields of World War I (Finale).