‘Parade’ will not be silenced

Zoe Leone, Associate Arts & Life Editor

The revival of “Parade” returned to Broadway on Feb. 21 for its first preview performance. What should have been a night of celebration was marred as ticket holders and buyers were met with a protest from a neo-Nazi group.

“Parade” first opened on Broadway in 1998 and is a dramatization of the real-life story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man in Georgia who was wrongly convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl who worked at the factory he was superintendent of in 1913. While he was initially not a suspect, mishandled police work, ulterior political motives and harsh antisemitic views changed the focus to Frank.

After his sentence was changed from death by hanging to life in prison by the then-governor of Georgia in 1915, a group of men from the young girl’s hometown kidnapped Frank from prison and lynched him outside in an oak tree. The event sparked the birth of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate organization primarily focused on Jewish people. Alternatively, Frank’s death also triggered the revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

Frank was pardoned posthumously by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles in 1986. The movement followed a 1982 report by The Tennessean which featured testimony from a worker at the factory who alleged that he had seen the state’s key witness with the young girl’s body at the scene of the crime. This, combined with new evidence that seemed to exonerate him, surged a new wave of belief in Frank’s innocence.

“Parade,” however, is not about Frank’s innocence or guilt. The musical follows the timeline from the beginning of Frank’s arrival to the South and ends with his final prayer before he is lynched. At the heart of the show is Frank (Ben Platt) and his wife, Lucille (Micaela Diamond), and their heartbreaking journey into love amidst the hatred surrounding them.

The neo-Nazis harassed audiences standing outside the venue, stating that they were paying money to go “worship a fucking pedophile,” according to Variety, and handing out flyers advertising their group. And yet the cast and crew, who were not made aware of the protest until after the show, delivered a performance worthy of rave reviews from critics at notable publications, like the New York Times.

“If there is any remaining doubt out there about the urgency of telling this story in this moment in history, the vileness on display last night should put it to rest,” wrote the producers of “Parade” in a statement posted to the show’s Instagram account. “We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night.”

Similarly, Platt also spoke out against the events of the night. In a reel posted to his Instagram, he said the event was “very ugly and scary, but a wonderful reminder of why we’re telling this particular story and how special and powerful art, and particularly theater, can be.”

The extreme antisemitism in the protest brought a wave of support, not just from the Broadway world, but the New York community as well. Two days after the demonstration took place, Mayor Eric Adams took to the stage to speak to the audience before that night’s performance, saying that what had happened “was not the New York spirit we love – this was hatred, this was bigotry.”

While the extremist group may have intended to discourage theatergoers from attending “Parade,” the event seemed to only have an adverse effect. Since the Tuesday night preview, audiences have been lining up to secure tickets to the performances, with many of them saying that the display of hatred made them feel a responsibility to come support the show, according to CBS News. It was also reported that extra security was seen outside the theater.

The cast and crew of “Parade” have proven that they will not be silenced. After all, the show must go on.