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Why the ‘Parade’ Revival is The Most Important Show on Broadway

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

Content warning: This story mentions rape and sexual assault and discusses themes of antisemitism, white supremacy, and murder.

With the frightening rise of antisemitism nationwide, a revival of Jason Robert Brown’s historical musical Parade has never been more timely.

Parade is based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent living in Atlanta, Georgia, when he was convicted of the rape and murder of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan in 1913. Two years later, he would be abducted and lynched by a mob that included sheriffs, mayors, and even the former governor of Georgia. The modern resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan is attributed to these chain of events. Today, it is widely agreed upon by historians and investigators that Frank was wrongfully convicted.

Parade first opened on Broadway in 1998 and, although it closed less than three months later, went on to win two Tony awards out of nine nominations. The revival, starring Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond as Leo and his wife Lucille Frank, respectively, had its first preview on Tuesday, February 21st. Outside the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (named after the Jewish former president of the Shubert Organization), Neo-Nazi protestors gathered, shouting at patrons lined up to enter the show. Videos show them yelling antisemitic rhetoric and harassing theatergoers for attending a show about “a Jewish pedophile.” One of these agitators was heard shouting, “You’re paying $300 to go f*cking worship a pedophile, you might as well know what you’re talking about.”

The cast and crew, the Actor’s Equity Association, as well as the show’s composer Jason Robert Brown swiftly released statements condemning the hatred witnessed on Broadway that night. “I have always suspected that Leo Frank was a difficult man to like. He was no hero. He was no martyr. But one of the things Parade says is that you don’t have to praise or admire Leo Frank to see that he was the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice, fueled by rage and fear and anti-Semitic hysteria,” Brown wrote in a statement released on his website.

Although it would be easier to say this kind of hate is unexpected, to say that would be naïve at best and ignorant at worst. The Anti-Defamation League (which, incidentally, was founded in response to Leo Frank’s conviction and the antisemitic media coverage that accompanied it) reported that 2021 was a record-breaking year in terms of antisemitic incidents in the United States, and while their 2022 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents is not yet available, they believe it will continue the upward trend. With celebrities like musical artist Ye (formerly Kanye West) and NBA player Kyrie Irving publicly spouting blatant and violent antisemitism, and with former President Donald Trump dining with notorious Holocaust-denier Nick Fuentes, antisemitism is an ever-present and growing threat to Jewish people in America and worldwide.

At its core, Parade is the story of an ordinary man, a Jewish man, who became the victim of injustice, fearmongering, and bigotry at the hands of the people of Atlanta, Georgia. It is a story of love in the face of adversity. And most importantly, it is a warning of what happens when hatred and fear are allowed to rule our hearts and our country. If it proved anything at all, the agitation of these far-right white supremacists who so boldly showed their hatred at the Jacobs theater stagedoor proved that a revival of Parade is more crucial than it has ever been. The importance of this show, of supporting the cast and crew, and most importantly of supporting the Jewish community, cannot be understated. If antisemites are unafraid to bring their hate into the public sphere, we must be even more unafraid to show our support. 

Parade is currently in previews. It will officially open on March 16, 2023, for a limited 24-week run. Tickets can be purchased here.

Sierra is a third year Film & Screen Studies major at Pace University in NYC, and current Senior Editor for Her Campus at Pace. She loves movies, music, and all things pop culture. She is an Egyptian-American actor, writer, and artist and moved to New York City from Georgia.