New York City Mayor Eric Adams addressed the audience prior to the February 23 performance of Parade at Broadway's Jacobs Theatre. Adams' speech follows the far-right, Neo-Nazi protest that took place outside the theatre February 21. Prior to that first preview, members of The National Socialist Movement waved signs covered in hateful rhetoric and harassed theatregoers outside the theatre.
Mayor Adams was introduced by the show's director, Michael Arden, who also spoke to the audience.
Adams said, "There's a beauty of diversity, particularly in a city like New York. We have the largest Jewish population outside of Tel Aviv… I want to thank this cast for telling this powerful story. Leo Frank's story can resonate with so many people. When we fill a theatre, we send a message that this is not a place where hate lives." Adams went on to speak about the citywide initiative Breaking Bread, Building Bonds, which seeks to unite people from different backgrounds over dinner.
Watch the video above to hear what Arden and Adams said in full.
Sharing his thoughts about the protest in a post on his website, Tony winner and Parade composer Jason Robert Brown recently wrote, "I feel terrible that audience members who are waiting in line to see our show on Broadway may be accosted by Neo-Nazis. (I can’t believe I’m writing that sentence.) But I’ll tell you the truth: I’m glad the assholes showed up. I’m glad they feel threatened enough to emerge into the light and show their faces."
Parade dramatizes the life and tragic death of Leo 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 and 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 protesters at Parade denounced Frank's innocence, and their flyers 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. Despite the unsettling events which occurred earlier in the evening, the first preview of Parade ended its evening with its first bows to an enraptured audience.
The musical's producers previously 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."
Following the incident, Parade cast members, including Ben Platt and Douglas Lyons, condemned the incident and spoke out about the importance of this show. Actors' Equity, the national labor union for actors and stage managers, and The Coalition of Broadway Unions & Guilds, representing workers both on and off stage in New York State and beyond, also condemned the protest in separate statements.