amBroadway | Neo-Nazi group protests outside ‘Parade’ on Broadway

A scene from the fall production of ‘Parade’ at City Center.
Photo by Joan Marcus

At the first preview performance of the new Broadway revival of “Parade” last Tuesday night, members of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi hate group, protested outside the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre as audience members lined up outside the theater and waited to enter.

“Parade,” which premiered on Broadway in 1998, dramatizes the real-life story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man in turn-of-the-century Georgia who was wrongfully accused and convicted of the murder of a young factory girl and was ultimately kidnapped and hanged by outlaws in a flagrant display of antisemitism and mob justice.

The incident, in which the protestors claimed that Frank was guilty and described him as a pedophile, was captured on video by Jake Wasserman, an editor at the Forward, and posted on social media. It has since been addressed and condemned by members of the production and the theater community at large.

“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.  We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night,” the producers said in a statement.

Ben Platt (at right) and Micaela Diamond in the fall production of ‘Parade’ at City Center.Photo by Joan Marcus

Ben Platt, who plays Frank, posted videos on Instagram in which he described the incident as “very ugly and scary but a wonderful reminder of why we’re telling this particular story” and thanked the theater staff “for keeping us super secure, as you will be when you see the show.”

In a blog post on his website, songwriter Jason Robert Brown expressed his surprise that the show was attracting such intense attention from extremists almost a quarter century since it premiered and connected the aggressive response with the 2017 election of Trump.

“I’m glad they feel threatened enough to emerge into the light and show their faces,” Brown said. “They won’t really engage with you, they can’t; everything they could tell you about Leo Frank and the case has been decisively debunked, over and over again. No legitimate conversation about the murder of Mary Phagan will end with you believing Leo Frank was guilty.”

“Parade,” which premiered in the fall at City Center, will officially open on March 16 and play a limited run on Broadway through August 6. The original Broadway production, which was directed by Hal Prince at Lincoln Center Theater and starred the late Brent Carver as Frank, was short-lived and received mixed reactions. Nevertheless, “Parade” went on to receive major regional and international productions.