Neo-Nazis tend to be a rowdy bunch, and it takes an extraordinary, self-assured piece of art to drown out their loud, ugly noise. paradewhich opens tonight on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, is that work of art.
With a haphazard advertising tagline, “This Ain’t Over Yet,” taken from one of the most powerful songs in a beautiful score, the 1998 revival parade arrives just when it’s needed most, providing an eloquent response to the rise in anti-Semitism made abundantly clear by the protesting hate group outside the show’s first preview (they haven’t returned).
With a cast as fine as it is numerous, headed by Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond –two of the best singers on Broadway today– paradeSet in Georgia in 1913, it marks its current points with all the artistry and theatrical savvy to meet and exceed its noble intentions. parade it’s as imposing as any musical revival to hit Broadway in years.
Directed by Michael Arden, parade stars Platt and Diamond as Leo and Lucille Frank, the real-life Jewish couple whose lives were decimated by Leo’s arrest and false conviction for the rape and murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan. After his death sentence was commuted to life in prison, the case under reassessment that continues to this day, with even auto magnate and consummate anti-Semite Henry Ford doubting the guilty verdict, Frank was dragged off by a lynch mob of his prison cell. and hung from the branch of a tree.
Not exactly the usual stuff for a Broadway musical, huh? Yet book writer Alfred Uhry and composer Jason Robert Brown delivered a musical (co-conceived and originally directed by Harold Prince) that was as engaging as it was moving, offsetting the broader scope of a history lesson with a story of marriage that is compelling in its complexity. and heartbreaking in its conclusion.
But even with the head start of solid source material, each production of parade you have to deal with some inherent obstacles. Move too slow and the story gets heavy. Cast the wrong actors, even in supporting roles (perhaps especially supporting roles) and the balance of the delicate power dynamic falls apart. Less than stellar singers, and there goes a score that can soar.
Arden, Platt, and Diamond see to it that this renaissance sails over those land mines. Along with a 33-person cast that includes such standouts as, to select a few, Alex Joseph Grayson (as a lying, twisted-armed ex-con), Jay Armstrong Johnson (as a rogue reporter) and Danielle Lee Greaves (as the servant of the Franks bullied into treason) – this parade, which began as an Encores! presentation at the on-a-roll New York City Center (initiator of the recent Broadway In the woods), is very likely as good an interpretation of Uhry-Brown’s work as most of us will ever see.
Presented on a stage designed by Dane Laffrey and built around a raised square platform at center stage reminiscent of witness stands, boxing rings, wooden gallows and bandstands of yesteryear. parade it glides as the action moves from the house to the pencil factory, from the roadside chain gang to the governor’s mansion, each change of location heralded through haunting, often lurid, historical photographs. projected against a back wall. The characters are presented in the same way, with black and white faces that remind us that the people we see singing and dancing once really and truly walked this earth.
Most audience members will probably be familiar with the historical outlines of the story that begins in 1913, when Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-raised Jew who moved to Marietta, Georgia, to work in a pencil factory, was accused of the horrific murder of young Mary. The girl, a 13-year-old assembly line worker, was found dead in the factory basement hours after she was seen visiting Frank’s office to pick up her paycheck.
Uhry’s book, without tilting his hand too blatantly, introduces us to Leo and his wife Lucille hours before the crime, their disputes over their work on the “Confederate Memorial Day” holiday, and their celebratory parade signaling the fundamental differences in their world views as Jews. born and bred on opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon line.
“Confederate Memorial Day is stupid,” he tells her. “Why would anyone want to celebrate the loss of a war?” Since we’ve just seen a brief musical preamble of a young Confederate soldier becoming separated from his hometown girl, the Stephen Foster-esque number “The Old Red Hills of Home,” well sung by Charlie Webb, only one of the many. Ensemble musicians have a moment to shine – we know right away that Leo’s fish-out-of-water opinions will bring him no good.
Young Mary (Erin Rose Doyle) is also introduced early on, dressed in her new festive picnic dress and clutching a white, helium-filled balloon as she exchanges mildly flirty small talk with a goofy local boy (Jake Pedersen). for a movie date that we know will never happen. Mary’s death will come soon, marked onstage by the launch and ascension of that balloon (one of the production’s few slips into a heavy hand also evidenced by Platt’s imprisoned Leo remaining onstage through the intermission). .
On the way to Leo’s inevitable, tragic, and maddening end, parade introduces us to a wide and diverse range of characters, including a corrupt prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Paul Alexander Nolan, as exemplary here as he was in slave game), a guilt-ridden governor (Sean Allan Krill, even stronger than he was in jagged small pill), a racist judge (Howard McGillin), an anti-Semitic newspaper editor (Manoel Felciano) and the black servants (Douglas Lyons, Courtnee Carter) who can only marvel, angry and dejected, that all attention is focused on the hanging. of a white man when “there’s a black man swinging from every tree”.
That line is from the Act II opening number “Rumblin’ and a Rollin,” just one of many beautifully performed songs from this revival, from the thrillingly bitter “That’s What He Said” to the deceptively sweet “Factory Girls” performed by a trio of Mary’s Lying Friends.
But make no mistake parade It belongs to Leo and Lucille. For his part, Platt has no problem reminding us why he has become one of Broadway’s most beloved performers. His voice here is stunning, rising and falling in a remarkably supple, pitch-perfect, bell-toned performance, modulated for every emotional nuance of a score that hits notes of vaudeville, pop ballad, and musical theater extravaganza. . While Platt’s on-screen performances to date have been a bit hit-and-miss, and if his Leo could bear to bear a little more of the wear and tear of two years in a Georgia prison, his stage presence, his acting chops and his singing prowess place him near the top of the Broadway stars of his generation.
Diamond matches Platt step for step and note for note, a delightfully unexpected achievement for a newcomer who made her Broadway debut as one of the Chers in the largely forgettable 2018 musical. the cherry show. Platt-Diamond’s duets like “Leo At Work/What Am I Waiting For?”, “All the Wasted Time” and especially “This Is Not Over Yet” are impressive, their voices fitting together in ways only hinted at. during his standout solo numbers (Platt’s “Leo’s Statement: It’s Hard to Speak My Heart,” Diamond’s “You Don’t Know This Man”).
Director Arden and choreographers Lauren Yalango-Grant and Christopher Cree Grant don’t skimp on the ensemble’s big numbers, either, coming up with a poignant (and threatening) “Where Will You Be When The Flood Comes?”
Sure, we know where this mob will stand when the flood hits, but that knowledge does little to soften the blow when Platt’s Leo, clad only in the nightshirt he was wearing when he was kidnapped (the work of costume designer Susan Hilferty is top-notch throughout), he falls to his death in a bit of stage art which, while not nearly as amazing as a similar scene in last year executionersit still has its impact.
In a brief coda that jumps to the present, the actors who played that former Confederate soldier and his girlfriend take the stage in modern clothing as a young couple happily picnicking on the same spot where a plaque marks the site of Frank’s lynching. It’s a deliberately ambiguous scene, hopeful perhaps, but probably not. A projection reminds us that Frank’s case, reopened in 2019, remains officially unsolved.
Event: Broadway Bernard B. Jacobs Theater
Directors: miguel arden
Books: Alfredo Uhry
Music: jason robert brown
Cast: Ben Platt, Micaela Diamond, Alex Joseph Grayson, Sean Allan Krill, Howard McGillin, Paul Alexander Nolan, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Kelli Barrett, Courtnee Carter, Eddie Cooper, Erin Rose Doyle, Tony Award nominee Manoel Felciano, Danielle Lee Greaves, Douglas Lyons, Jake Pedersen, Florrie Bagel, Stacie Bono, Max Chernin, Emily Rose DeMartino, Christopher Gurr, Beth Kirkpatrick, Ashlyn Maddox, Sophia Manicone, William Michals, Jackson Teeley, Charlie Webb.
Execution time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including intermission)