Well, of course I know they were clapping for the cast and not the characters, but there was something creepy about hundreds of people—some of whom are, surely, Jews—on their feet and wildly applauding an anti-Semitic lynch mob singing about the “ old red hills of home” in Georgia, thrilled that they will, with their new Bible-thumping Governor, sing “Dixie” again. This is the curtain call for the Broadway revival of Parade. Its relevance is obvious. As is its creepiness.
The plot of this musical centers on Leo Frank (Ben Platt) and Lucille, his Southern wife (Micaela Diamond). A displaced Brooklynite, Leo cannot adjust to saying “Howdy” instead of “Hello.” He is an outsider in early 20th century Atlanta and an accountant by nature: unemotional, unlikable. unliked. So when a teenage girl who works in his factory is found raped and murdered, Leo is the handy scapegoat.
The show that follows is a formulaic courtroom drama, followed by his years of “wasted time” as he languishes in prison. There is a verdict: “Guilty,” but the mystery is not solved, and, as the finale shows us the injustice is ongoing. We recognize the crass crowd-roiling journalism and the hysteria of lying teenage girls and the endless variety of vulgarity and prejudice.
There are some wonderful voices here, and the songs require that they all hold and hold and hold their final note. In especially good voice is the probable villain of the piece, an escaped convict played by Alex Joseph Grayson. There’s no shortage of great voices, most playing hateful characters—and that’s the problem. Parade gives us an all too familiar morality lesson without the tragic depth that would move us to a new understanding of the evil in the world.
[Bernard R. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St., New York, NY] Opened March 16 after beginning previews February 21, 2023; paradebroadway.com