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The cast of Parade. (Photo by Joan Marcus)





By David Schultz and Julia Polinsky


Julia: In the achingly, throbbingly, beautifully sung revival of Parade now on Broadway, Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond sing their hearts and souls out.

Parade tells the story of Leo Frank (Platt), a Jewish businessman from Brooklyn living in Georgia about 100 years ago and married to Lucille, a local Jewish woman (Diamond). Accused of murdering a girl who worked in the factory he managed, Frank is arrested, tried, convicted of murder, sentenced to death.

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Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt in Parade. Photo: Joan Marcus

Not quite your usual Broadway plot – but in Parade, Frank’s wife saves his life and gets his death sentence commuted to life in prison, by persuading the Governor of Georgia (Sean Allen Krill) that commutation is justice. The people of Marietta feel differently; they break into the jail, remove Frank, and lynch him.

Is Parade a Broadway musical? Or is it an exploration of anti-Semitism, racism, media manipulation of politics, corruption, legal misconduct? In short, is it a musical whose time has come?

David: I’d venture to say it is all of the above. The confluence of the increasing hate crimes that have occurred in the last few years have given this revival a definite sense of urgency that it very likely did not have on its original debut in 1989.

Composer Jason Robert Brown was in his early 20’s and in his very early years of composing theater music. A very sober and adult beginning.

Julia: With more than a soupçon of Sondheim…

David: This revival has added various scenes that were included in a London revival a few years ago. The cool almost documentary visual style directed with verve by Michael Arden gives the work a clinical viewpoint for the audience. The added visuals of the actual photographs shown via projector onto the bare brick walls of the stage give an added resonance, as the actors appear onstage.

Julia: The beautiful sepia cast of the lighting (Heather Gilbert) sets a tone reminiscent of fading old newsprint, or old family photos, as do Susan Hilferty’s costumes. Jason Robert Brown’s score moves through many styles of American music, from hymn-like anthems (“The Old Red Hills of Home,” “The Dream of Atlanta” to chain-gang call and response (“Feel The Rain Fall”) to soaring testament to hope (“This Is Not Over Yet”) to the Jewish prayer at death.

David: The sung-thru score is practically operatic which gives the work a propulsive sense of urgency. Some, not all, of the audience is familiar with the history of this tragedy, and it does have a certain doom-laden undercurrent.

But the focus and emotional heart lies between Leo and Lucille. Tracing their complicated conflicted marriage with all the inherent awkward feelings of being an outsider via Brooklyn (Leo) with Lucille born and bred a southerner.


Description automatically generatedBen Platt and Micaela Diamond in Parade. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Julia: Completely agree about Leo and Lucille. There are no surprises to the story — The Leo Frank incident is part of American history — so the show has to pull its emotional what-if from them. Which it does, particularly with Lucille, as I see it. Leo starts stuffy and stays stuffy almost to the end. Lucille starts stuffy and blossoms into real love, although Micaela Diamond sometimes slips out of Lucille’s accent. Still, she gives a convincing, heartfelt transformation from frail flower of Southern femininity to full-grown woman.

David: Ben Platt perfectly captures the awkward, off-putting look and manner of a New York Jew that the local folks can’t really connect with on any level.

I found that the deep resonating emotional pull was actually centered more on Lucille rather than on Leo. She was the galvanizing force that pulled more strings (presumably) in her quest for justice and release. Admittedly her ability to sway the Governor and change the outcome of a death sentence does seem much more theatrical and simplified in this musical. It was likely a long and arduous time for the couple. But a 2.5 hour musical obviously has to condense and collapse time to give a rhythmic emotional epiphany and closure to a tragic tale. 

Julia: Other notable performances: Sean Allen Krill as conflicted Governor Slaton, dancing his way through the political swamp surrounding the Frank case; Alex Joseph Grayson as Jim Conley, the porter who may have a greater involvement in Mary Phagan’s death than it seems at first. Paul Alexander Nolan is a splendidly nasty, self-righteous prosecutor Dorsey; Jay Armstrong Johnson smarms and oozes as reporter Britt Craig.

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Paul Alexander Nolan and Alex Joseph Grayson in Parade. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

David: The staging of this remounting from City Center last fall is problematic. The excessive square high platform serves as the main space for the entire production. Depending on your seat the visuals of the left and right sidelines are not as apparent to the eye.

Julia: “Problematic” is not limited to Dane Laffrey’s spare set design, or how director Michael Arden moves his cast around that set. When the lighting, scaffolding, the back wall of the theater, the bare bones of the building and set are visible, and projections (Sven Ortel) are crucial to the production: that’s a design and directorial choice, but it doesn’t enhance the story to have everyone on stage all the time, moving up and down onto that raised center platform as needed. It’s a very Encores solution to set design, but doesn’t quite work on the Broadway stage.

David: That this revival hits a nerve with the general public and the critics alike is a rare thing indeed. Artfully sung with a cast that enunciates each word and phrase with aplomb, each performer as you mentioned creates individual specific subtle grace notes that fully delineate each character. A tricky thing since there are 33  actors up on stage. Sometimes all at once.

Julia: That Parade was revived now has to be significant. As the final projection tells us, the Frank case was reopened in 2019, and is still ongoing. The nerve Parade hits lives in the open wound of division in America. The show’s music and heartfelt storytelling can only try to heal that wound.



At the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th Street

Tuesday and Thursday at 7; Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 8; Wednesday and Saturday at 2; Sunday at 3.

Tickets $84-298