Ben Platt and the producers of the Broadway revival of the 1998 musical "Parade" condemned antisemitic protests that took place outside the musical's first preview performance at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City.
"Parade" follows the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager who was convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee named Mary Phagan in 1913. Today, the consensus is that he was wrongly convicted, but at the time, amid rising antisemitic tensions across Georgia, Frank was kidnapped from prison in 1915 and lynched in Phagan's hometown. The public act of violence was spurred by Georgia governor commuting Frank's death sentence to life in prison. Frank's highly publicized case continues to be of public interest today, after the Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia reopened the investigation in 2019 to prove his innocence.
Patrons attending Tuesday night's preview performance were caught in the middle of a protest led by members of the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement. Several sign-wielding protesters outside of the theater were heard calling Frank a "pedophile," per a social media video shared by The Forward engagement editor Jake Wasserman.
In an Instagram video posted Tuesday, Platt — who stars in the lead role as Frank — denounced the neo-Nazi protesters "from a really disgusting group" who were "spreading antisemitic rhetoric":
"For those who don't know, there were a few neo-Nazi protesters from a really disgusting group outside of the theater, bothering some of our patrons on their way in and saying antisemitic things about Leo Frank, who the show is about, and just spreading antisemitic rhetoric that led to this whole story in the first place," the Tony Award-winning actor said.
He continued, "If you don't know about it, I encourage you to look up the story and most importantly encourage you to come see the show, and it was definitely 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. And just made me feel extra, extra grateful to be the one who gets to tell this particular story and to carry on this legacy of Leo.
"I just think that now is really the moment for this particular piece," Platt concluded. "And I felt that I just wanted the button on the evening, at least for me personally, to be to celebrate what a beautiful experience it is and what gorgeous work all my wonderful colleagues did tonight, not the really ugly actions of a few people who are spreading evil."
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The musical's producers also released a statement on Wednesday, per The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "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."
"Parade" premiered on Broadway in December 1998 and also features a book by Alfred Uhry — the Tony, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning playwright and screenwriter. The musical returned to Broadway Tuesday night following a sold-out run last fall at New York City Center. It is slated to officially open March 16 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.