In the midst of a factory floor-like setting, surrounded by jagged-edged platforms, Phil Tayler sits at a gloomy desk, looking lost.
Tayler plays Leo Frank, the doomed protagonist in Jason Robert Brown’s haunting musical “Parade,” which runs through Dec. 28 in a Moonbox production in the Roberts Studio Theatre at Calderwood Pavilion.
“[Director] Jason Modica and I conceived the setting for ‘Parade’ in a kind of limbo between life and death,” says Tayler. “In that moment when he’s awaiting his fate, he’s interacting with his memories of what brought him here and has the ability to see and hear what people were saying about him.”
“Parade,” which has a book by Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy”), tells the true story of Frank, a Jewish factory owner who marries a Southerner and moves to her home state of Georgia. When a young woman is murdered at the factory, Frank becomes caught up in a wave of anti-Semitism, political grandstanding, and sensational headlines.
“It’s really a story of how people identify themselves in an atmosphere where we normalize hate and propaganda,” Tayler says. “But it’s also about how people come together in a moment of crisis.”
Tayler says he and Modica first worked on their concept for “Parade” 10 years ago, when they were both in their final year as directing majors at Boston Conservatory.
“We had this idea that the story was happening at a particular moment, and we are inside Leo Frank’s head as he remembers the events that brought him there,” says Tayler, who has a litany of memorable performances to his credit, including his Elliot Norton Award-winning role in the one-man show “Buyer and Cellar” at Lyric Stage Company. “But what started out as an idea and a student production has grown and evolved for this Moonbox Production.”
Tayler says Moonbox producer Sharman Altshuler has been supportive of his and Modica’s idea for “Parade,” and she’s expanded his role to co-producer.
"Alfred Uhry understood how to explore the links between different layers of society,” says Altshuler. “But I have also worked with Phil on several shows over the years, and I was impressed by his passion for this very intimate approach to these characters and their stories.”
‘White Christmas’ returns
General Waverly, says veteran performer Conrad John Schuck, “is the heart of ‘White Christmas.’ ”
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” which is returning to the Boch Center Wang Theatre Dec. 17-29, is the stage adaptation of the classic 1954 film that starred Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen. The story revolves around two World War II buddies who become show business stars. When they take their act to Vermont, they discover their former general has retired to run a failing inn and decide to help him out. Complications ensue, naturally, with two love interests, but along the way, audiences are treated to lavish costumes and elaborate song-and-dance numbers.
Schuck, 79, who is returning to the role for the sixth season of the tour, along with Lorna Luft (who plays Waverly’s housekeeper), says the focus of the “White Christmas” is Berlin’s beautiful music and the dancing.
The show, he says, is “fluff with heart. And General Waverly provides that heart.”
Schuck, who has a rich baritone he put to good use in several touring productions of “Annie Get Your Gun” with Reba McEntire and as Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” says he doesn’t get to sing until the finale in “White Christmas.” But he enjoys the character scenes he has that move the plot along and anchor the story with a message.
“What’s great about this character is that he has a dramatic arc that helps pull the story and the songs together,” says Schuck, a Boston native. “I’ve done a lot of TV in my career [including “McMillan & Wife” and various iterations of “Star Trek”], which was a lot of fun, but those characters are often utilitarian and focus on what you do rather than who you are. General Waverly starts out gruff, but softens, and ends the show reminding people to ‘Count Your Blessings.’ ”
‘Christmas Revels’ comes home
The 49th annual “Christmas Revels” turns its focus away from England and its medieval and Victorian traditions to focus on “An American Celebration of the Winter Solstice.” The roots of American music take center stage, from the bluegrass of Appalachia to the traveling songs of California. Actors Bobbie Steinbach and Steven Barkhimer are among the performers joining the collection of musicians and chorus members Dec. 13-29 at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. (Tickets $15-$75, 617-972-8300, www.revels.org.)
A later flight for ‘The Seagull’
The Arlekin Players’ new adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic “The Seagull” has been extended through Dec. 15 at the company’s Needham theater. Arlekin artistic director Igor Golyuk directs the production that toys with the idea of characters playing roles in a play. Golyuk has also woven pieces of Chekhov’s letters into the script. (Tickets $45-$65, 617-942-0022, www.arlekinplayers.com.)
Presented by Moonbox Productions. At the Roberts Studio, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through Dec. 28. Tickets $25-$50, 617-933-8600, www.bostontheatrescene.com