New York City Center’s Encores! series is on a roll, following last summer’s acclaimed Into the Woods revival with a note-perfect production of composer Jason Robert Brown’s 1998 musical Parade, which relates the true story of a Jewish man in Atlanta who was lynched by an antisemitic mob in 1915 after being falsely convicted of murdering a 13-year-old girl.
Ben Platt, back on Broadway six years after his Tony-winning turn in Dear Evan Hansen, brings some of Evan’s nervous, hand-wringing energy to Leo Frank, a factory manager who misses the Brooklyn of his boyhood and bristles at the injustice in which he has become the centerpiece. Platt, with his rich baritone and stunning vibrato, is surprisingly well matched with Micaela Diamond, whose mezzo-soprano displays similar richness and an equally impressive vibrato as Leo’s Georgia-born wife.
Director Michael Arden draws out the modern parallels to the story, even ending with a jeans-and-T-shirt-sporting couple picnicking on the grassy site of the lynching a century ago. As recent news has made clear, the scourge of antisemitism has never truly been eradicated from American society – and this searing revival serves as both history lesson and alarm bell.
This is a condensed version of my full review, which will appear in the next issue of Musicals magazine.