On February 21, as patrons lined up for the first preview performance of the Broadway revival of Parade—a musical about the true story of the false conviction and murder of a Jewish man named Leo Frank in 1915—members of a far-right, Neo-Nazi movement protested outside of the Jacobs Theatre. The individuals carried signs with hateful rhetoric hand-written, shouting at theatre-goers and attempting to give out antisemitic flyers to those in line to see the show.
It was an ironic display of antisemitism considering that the Parade musical is an indictment against hatred. Parade, a musical written by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry, dramatizes the life and tragic death of Frank, who was a Jewish factory manager living in Georgia in the early 20th century. He was falsely convicted of murdering 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan. He was sentenced to life in prison. But Frank was then subsequently lynched by an angry white mob. After Frank's death, it was revealed that Phagan was murdered by Jim Conley, another factory worker. Frank has since been exonerated.
The far-right white supremacist group, known as "The National Socialist Movement," protested the show on the basis of denouncing Frank's innocence. Their flyers also described their opposition to the Anti-Defamation League, a non-profit civil rights law group that assists victims of antisemitic allegations. The League was founded over a century ago in response to Frank's murder.
The flyers handed out by the Neo-Nazis also mentioned a streaming platform from another antisemitic group, the Goyim Defense League. That group came up in the news recently as being linked to the perpetrator of the antisemitic shootings in Los Angeles last week—who has since been charged with hate crimes.
When called upon for a statement, the Parade producers told Playbill: "If there is any remaining doubt out there about the urgency of telling this story in this moment in history, the vileness on display tonight should put it to rest. We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night."
A video shared by The Forward editor Jake Wasserman on Twitter, originally filmed by Madeleine Blossom, shows the scene outside of the Jacobs Theatre earlier this evening. The video, and others like it, showed Neo-Nazis holding large signs calling Frank a pedophile, and shouting antisemitic and racist slurs. The police were called to keep the protestors from harassing audience members going into the show.
Members of the Parade cast watched the disturbing display from their dressing room windows. One of the show's swings, Prentiss E. Mouton, posted on his Instagram story: "Are you really doing the real work of an artist if you aren't be[ing] protested by Neo-Nazis? If I wasn't proud enough to be a part of this production, it was solidified today."
The National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi hate group, is protesting outside of the Broadway revival of “Parade,” stating that Leo Frank, the subject of the musical, was a pedophile. pic.twitter.com/wbGMjRubZL— Jake Wasserman (@jacobhwasserman) February 22, 2023
Following the evening's performance, the show's star Ben Platt, who plays Frank, took to his Instagram to record his reactions. Speaking from his home, with his dog beside him, Platt said, “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, theatre can be. And it made me feel extra, extra grateful to be the one to get to tell this particular story and to carry on the legacy of Leo." He also encouraged theatre lovers to come to the show, saying that those who are working at the Jacobs Theatre are making sure the cast, crew, and audience members are safe.
Continues Platt, "I just think that now is really the moment for this particular piece. I 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.”
Wrote cast member Douglas Lyons, who plays Riley in Parade, via Instagram: "To the Nazis who protested our beautiful show with hatred directly outside our dressing rooms, fear don’t work here baby. We gon tell the story and we gon tell it with conviction."