I am not one to be speechless. I am naturally pretty chatty, and I always have my two cents (or three or four) to add to almost any discussion, particularly conversations about Broadway.
When I visited the Bernard Jacobs Theatre over spring break to see the first Broadway revival of “Parade,” I was speechless.
I am lucky enough to see a significant number of Broadway shows, and this was the first time the only word I could think of as I exited the theater was “flawless.”
“Parade” tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager accused of sexually assaulting and killing a thirteen-year-old female employee on Memorial Day 1913 in Marietta, Georgia. The story is not unlike a Jewish equivalent of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” with Leo Frank serving as the scapegoat role once filled by Tom Robinson.
The story is alarmingly timely. The early 20th-century antisemitism should feel distant, but the Neo-Nazis who protested outside the theatre during the first preview remind us that Jewish people in the United States are still very much at risk.
Frank is portrayed by Ben Platt, who is most known for his 2016 portrayal of Evan in Broadway’s smash hit “Dear Evan Hansen.” Platt beautifully conveys his signature anxiety into the character of Leo Frank and his prison stint.
Few musical theater performers on the planet are as compelling to watch as Platt. The 29-year-old Tony winner is a certified Broadway star, but he has a youthful energy about him that makes it abundantly clear his career has just begun.
Besides Platt, the breakout star of this production is Alex Joseph Grayson, who plays factory worker Jim Conley. Grayson’s powerful rasp in “Feel the Rain Fall” brought the house down.
I dislike using cliches like that, but this show is stunning a such a deep level that it’s difficult to describe. I could say it is one of the best Broadway revivals in years, deserves to win several Tonys and made me fall in love with Broadway all over again. All of those things are true, but it’s hard for me to not spend all 400 of my words just saying “go see this show immediately.”
Leo Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 by the Fulton County District Attorney. It is still ongoing, and a clear answer will likely never be reached. One thing is clear – get yourself to the Jacobs Theatre by any means possible.