Antisemitic protesters who shouted at theatergoers attending the Broadway revival of a musical about a Jewish man wrongfully accused of raping and killing a girl drew immediate criticism this week from the show’s producers and star Ben Platt.
Platt plays Leo Frank, a pencil factory worker who was charged with raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl in 1913 in Georgia. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 1915, a mob dragged him from his prison cell and lynched him.
About six members of the National Socialist Movement, which activist groups classify as a neo-Nazi organization, gathered outside the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Tuesday night, shouting at theatergoers.
“You’re paying 300 bucks to go f------ worship a pedophile!” a person shouted.
Written by Alfred Uhry, with music composed by Jason Robert Brown, “Parade” tackles the real- life story of Frank, who was posthumously pardoned in 1986 by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The musical debuted on Broadway in 1998.
“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’s about, and just spreading antisemitic rhetoric that led to this whole story in the first place,” Platt said on Instagram.
Platt and Allison Padilla-Goodman, the vice president of the Southern division of the Anti-Defamation League, said that although the protest was a distraction, it could end up serving a greater purpose by shining a light on antisemitism, which is on the rise in the U.S.
“I think it’s a story that signifies that if we don’t catch hate in its moment, if we don’t address the kind of climate of antisemitism and hatred and discrimination, hate crimes happen, and hate can erupt onto streets,” Padilla-Goodman said.
Platt said it showed why reviving the musical in 2023 was important.
“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 that gets to tell this particular story and to carry on this legacy of Leo,” Platt said on Instagram.
The show's producers said in a statement: “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.”