Parade (musical)

Parade is a musical with a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. The musical premiered on Broadway in December 1998 and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of nine nominations) and six Drama Desk Awards. After closing on Broadway in February 1999, the show has had a US national tour and a few professional productions in the US and UK.

Broadway Playbill cover
MusicJason Robert Brown
LyricsJason Robert Brown
BookAlfred Uhry
BasisHistorical events in Atlanta in 1913
Productions1998 Broadway
2000 US Tour
2007 West End
2011 West End
AwardsTony Award for Best Score
Tony Award for Best Book

Background and genesis

The musical dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The trial, sensationalized by the media, aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank's death sentence was commuted to life in prison by the departing Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton due to his detailed review of over 10,000 pages of testimony and possible problems with the trial, Leo Frank was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan's hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree. The events surrounding the investigation and trial led to two groups emerging: the revival of the defunct KKK and the birth of the Jewish Civil Rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).[1]

Director Harold Prince turned to Jason Robert Brown to write the score after Stephen Sondheim turned the project down. Prince's daughter, Daisy, had brought Brown to her father's attention. Book writer Alfred Uhry, who grew up in Atlanta, had personal knowledge of the Frank story, as his great-uncle owned the pencil factory run by Leo Frank.[2]

The musical's story concludes that the likely killer was the factory janitor Jim Conley, the key witness against Frank at the trial. The villains of the piece are the ambitious and corrupt prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (later the governor of Georgia and then a judge) and the rabid, anti-semitic publisher Tom Watson (later elected a U.S. senator). Prince and Uhry emphasized the evolving relationship between Frank and his wife Lucille.[3] Their relationship shifts from cold to warm in songs like "Leo at Work/What am I Waiting For?," "You Don't Know This Man," "Do it Alone," and "All the Wasted Time". The poignancy of the couple, who fall in love in the midst of adversity, is the core of the work. It makes the tragic outcome – the miscarriage of justice – even more disturbing.[4]

The show was Brown's first Broadway production. His music, according to critic Charles Isherwood, has "subtle and appealing melodies that draw on a variety of influences, from pop-rock to folk to rhythm and blues and gospel."[3]


Act I

The musical opens in Marietta, Georgia, in the time of the American Civil War. The sounds of drums herald the appearance of a young Confederate soldier, bidding farewell to his sweetheart as he goes to fight for his homeland. The years pass and suddenly it is 1913. The young soldier has become an old one-legged veteran who is preparing to march in the annual Confederate Memorial Day parade ("The Old Red Hills of Home"). As the Parade begins ("The Dream of Atlanta"), Leo Frank, a Yankee Jew from Brooklyn, NYC, is deeply uncomfortable in the town in which he works and lives, feeling out of place due to his Judaism and his college education ("How Can I Call This Home?"). His discomfort is present even in his relationship with his wife, Lucille, who has planned an outdoor meal spoiled by Leo's decision to go into work on a holiday. Meanwhile, two local teens, Frankie Epps and Mary Phagan, ride a trolley car and flirt. Frankie wants Mary to go to the picture show with him, but Mary playfully resists, insisting her mother will not let her ("The Picture Show"). Mary leaves to collect her pay from the pencil factory managed by Frank.

While Frank is at work, Lucille bemoans the state of their marriage, believing herself unappreciated by a man so wrapped up in himself. She reflects on her unfulfilled life and wonders whether or not Leo was the right match for her ("Leo at Work" / "What Am I Waiting For?"). Mary Phagan arrives in Leo's office to collect her paycheck. That night, two policeman, Detective Starnes and Officer Ivey, rouse Frank from his sleep, and without telling him why, demand he accompany them to the factory, where the body of Mary Phagan has been found raped and murdered in the basement. The Police immediately suspects Newt Lee, the African-American night watchman who discovered the body ("Interrogation"). Throughout his interrogation, he maintains his innocence, but inadvertently directs Starnes' suspicion upon Frank, who did not answer his telephone when Lee called him to report the incident. Leo is arrested, but not charged, and Mrs. Phagan, Mary's mother, becomes aware of Mary's death.

Across town, a reporter named Britt Craig is informed about Mary's murder and sees the possibility of a career-making story ("Big News"). Craig attends Mary's funeral, where the townspeople of Marietta are angry, mournful, and baffled by the tragedy that has so unexpectedly shattered the community. ("There is a Fountain" / "It Don't Make Sense"). Frankie Epps swears revenge on Mary's killer, as does Tom Watson, a writer for The Jeffersonian, an extremist right-wing newspaper ("Tom Watson's Lullaby") who has taken a special interest in the case. In the meantime, Governor John Slaton pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician with a "lousy conviction record", resolves to find the murderer. Dorsey, along with Starnes and Ivey interrogate Newt Lee, but they get no information. Dorsey releases Newt, reasoning that "hanging another Nigra ain't enough this time. We gotta do better." He then attaches the blame to Leo Frank, and sends Starnes and a reluctant Ivey out to find eyewitnesses ("Something Ain't Right"). Craig exalts in his opportunity to cover a "real" story and begins an effective campaign vilifying Leo Frank. ("Real Big News").

Leo meets with his lawyer, Luther Z. Rosser, who vows to "win this case, and send him home". Meanwhile, Dorsey makes a deal with factory janitor and ex-convict Jim Conley to testify against Frank in exchange for immunity for a previous escape from prison. Lucille, hounded by reporters, collapses from the strain and privately rebukes Craig when he attempts to get an interview ("You Don't Know This Man"). She tells her husband that she cannot bear to see his trial, but he begs her to stay in the courtroom, as her not appearing would make him look guilty.

The trial of Leo Frank begins, presided over by Judge Roan. A hysterical crowd gathers outside the courtroom, as Tom Watson spews invective ("Hammer of Justice") and Hugh Dorsey begins the case for the prosecution ("Twenty Miles from Marietta"). The prosecution produces a series of witnesses, most of whom give trumped evidence which was clearly fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie Epps testifies, falsely, that Mary mentioned that Frank "looks at her funny" when they last spoke, a sentiment echoed verbatim by three of Mary's teenage co-workers, Iola, Essie, and Monteen ("The Factory Girls"). In a fantasy sequence, Frank becomes the lecherous seducer of their testimony ("Come Up to My Office"). Testimony is heard from Mary's mother ("My Child Will Forgive Me") and Minnie McKnight before the prosecution's star witness, Jim Conley, takes the stand, claiming that he witnessed the murder and helped Frank cover up the crime ("That's What He Said"). Leo is desperate. As prosecutor Hugh Dorsey whips the observers and jurors at the trial into a frenzy, Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement. Leo offers a heartfelt speech, pleading to be believed ("It's Hard to Speak My Heart"), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant cakewalk as Lucille and Leo embrace, terrified ("Summation and Cakewalk").

Act II

Leo has begun his process of appeal. The trial has been noted by the press in the north, and the reaction is strongly disapproving of the way in which it was conducted, but the African-American domestics wonder if the reaction would have been as strong if the victim had been black ("A Rumblin' and a Rollin'"). Lucille tries to help Leo with his appeal, but reveals crucial information to Craig, provoking a fight between Leo and Lucille ("Do it Alone"). Lucille then finds Governor Slaton at a party ("Pretty Music") and attempts to advocate for Leo. She accuses him of either being a fool or a coward if he accepts the outcome of the trial as is. Meanwhile, Tom Watson approaches Hugh Dorsey and tells him that he will support his bid for governor should he choose to make it. Dorsey and Judge Roan go on a fishing trip, where they discuss the political climate and the upcoming election ("The Glory").

The governor agrees to re-open the case, and Leo and Lucille rejoice ("This is Not Over Yet"). Slaton visits the factory girls, who admit to their exaggeration (“Factory Girls (Reprise)”), and Minnie, who claims that Dorsey intimidated her and made her sign a statement (“Minnie McKnight's Reprise”). Slaton also visits Jim Conley, who is back in jail as an accessory to the murder, who refuses to change his story despite the noticeable inconsistencies with the evidence, and along with his Chain Gang, does not give any information, much to the chagrin of Slaton ("Blues: Feel the Rain Fall"). After much consideration, he agrees to commute Frank's sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, a move that effectively ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot ("Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?").

Leo has been transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her ("All the Wasted Time"). After Lucille departs from the prison, a party of masked men (including Starnes, Ivey, Frankie Epps, the Fulton Tower guard and the Old Confederate Soldier) arrives and kidnaps Leo. They take him to Marietta and demand he confess to the murder on pain of death. Leo refuses, and although Ivey is convinced of his innocence, the rest of group is determined to kill him. As his last request, Leo has a sack tied around his waist, since he is wearing only his nightshirt, and gives his wedding ring to Ivey to be given to Lucille. The group hangs him from an oak tree ("Sh'ma"). Some time later, a remorseful Britt Craig gives Leo's ring, which has been delivered to him anonymously, to Lucille. He is surprised to discover that she has no plans to leave Georgia, which is now governed by Dorsey, but she refuses to let Leo's ordeal be for nothing. Alone, she gives into her grief, but she takes comfort in believing that Leo is with God and free from his ordeal. The Confederate Memorial Day Parade begins again ("Finale").

Musical numbers

  • A ^ Cut for the Donmar Warehouse production.
  • B ^ Replaced with "Hammer of Justice" in the Donmar Warehouse production.
  • C ^ Replaced with "Minnie McKnight's Testimony" in the Donmar Warehouse production.
  • D ^ Cut for the 2000 U.S. Tour and the Donmar Warehouse production.
  • E ^ Replaced with "The Glory" in the Donmar Warehouse production.
  • F ^ Replaced with "Minnie McKnight's Reprise" in the Donmar Warehouse production.

Characters and original cast

Character Broadway
First U.S. National Tour
Donmar Warehouse
Lucille Frank Carolee Carmello Andréa Burns Lara Pulver
Leo Frank Brent Carver David Pittu Bertie Carvel
Frankie Epps Kirk McDonald Daniel Frank Kelley Stuart Matthew Price
Young Confederate Soldier Jeff Edgerton
Mary Phagan Christy Carlson Romano Kristen Bowden Jayne Wisener
Hugh Dorsey Herndon Lackey Peter Samuel Mark Bonnar
Governor John Slaton John Hickok Rick Hilsabeck Gary Milner
Britt Craig Evan Pappas Randy Redd
Mr. Peavy Don Stephenson Peter Flynn Mark Bonnar
Luther Rosser J. B. Adams David Vosburgh Stephen Webb
Officer Ivey Tad Ingram Tim Salamandyk
Prison Guard Randy Redd David Coolidge N/A
Jim Conley Rufus Bonds, Jr. Keith Byron Kirk Shaun Escoffery
Newt Lee Ray Aranha
Riley J. C. Montgomery C. Mingo Long N/A
Tom Watson John Leslie Wolfe Norman Bowman
J. N. Starnes Peter Samuel Tim Howard
Iola Stover Brooke Sunny Moriber Siri Howard Joanna Kirkland
Essie Emily Klein Celia Mei Rubin
Monteen Abbi Hutcherson Sandra DeNise Zoe Rainey
Angela Angela Lockett Carla J. Hargrove Malinda Parris
Judge Roan Don Chastain Donald Grody Steven Page
Old Confederate Soldier
Mrs. Frances Phagan Jessica Molaskey Adinah Alexander Helen Anker
Sally Slaton Anne Torsiglieri Elizabeth Brownlee


Most critics praised the show, especially the score.[5] However, the public and some critics received the show coolly. A number felt the show took too many liberties in the use of racial slurs. When the show closed, Livent had filed for bankruptcy protection (Chapter 11). Lincoln Center was the other producer solely responsible for covering the weekly running costs.[6]


The musical premiered on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center on December 17, 1998 and closed February 28, 1999, after 39 previews and 84 regular performances. Directed by Harold Prince, it starred Brent Carver as Leo Frank, Carolee Carmello as Lucille Frank, and Christy Carlson Romano as Mary Phagan.

U.S. National tour

A U. S. national tour, directed by Prince, started at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in June 2000, with Jason Robert Brown conducting at some venues.[7] It starred David Pittu as Leo, Andrea Burns as Lucille, Keith Byron Kirk as Jim and Kristen Bowden as Mary.[8][9]

Donmar Warehouse/Los Angeles

The first major production in the United Kingdom played at the Donmar Warehouse from September 24 to November 24, 2007.[10] It was directed by Rob Ashford and starred Lara Pulver as Lucille, Bertie Carvel as Leo, Jayne Wisener as Mary and Stuart Matthew Price as Young Soldier/Frankie.[11] Pulver was nominated for the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical and Carvel was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical. A double-CD cast recording of this production has been released by First Night Records. The recording includes new material written by Brown for the production and contains all songs and dialogue from the Donmar production. The large Broadway orchestration was reduced by David Cullen and Brown to a nine piece ensemble consisting of two pianos, accordion, percussion, clarinet, horn and strings.[12]

The Donmar production transferred to the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, California, in September 2009, for a run through November 15, 2009. Pulver reprised her role as Lucille opposite T.R. Knight as Leo. The cast also included Michael Berresse, Christian Hoff, Hayley Podschun, Rose Sezniak and Phoebe Strole.[13]

Avery Fisher Hall concert

On February 16, 2015, a concert production of Parade was staged at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center by Manhattan Concert Productions, directed by Gary Griffin and conducted by composer Jason Robert Brown. Jeremy Jordan and Laura Benanti starred as Leo and Lucille, with Ramin Karimloo as Tom, Joshua Henry as Jim, Andy Mientus as Britt, Emerson Steele as Mary, Katie Rose Clarke as Mrs. Phagan, John Ellison Conlee as Hugh, Davis Gaines as Judge Roan/Old Soldier and Alan Campbell as Governor Slaton.[14]

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1999 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Alfred Uhry Won
Best Original Score Jason Robert Brown Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Brent Carver Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Carolee Carmello Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Harold Prince Nominated
Best Choreography Patricia Birch Nominated
Best Orchestrations Don Sebesky Nominated
Best Scenic Design Riccardo Hernandez Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Alfred Uhry Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Brent Carver Won
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Carolee Carmello Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Rufus Bonds, Jr. Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Harold Prince Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Patricia Birch Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Don Sebesky Won
Outstanding Lyrics Jason Robert Brown Nominated
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Set Design Riccardo Hernandez Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Howell Binkley Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design Jonathan Deans Nominated

Original London production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2008 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Bertie Carvel Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Lara Pulver Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Shaun Escoffery Nominated
Best Director Rob Ashford Nominated
Best Theatre Choreographer Nominated
Best Sound Design Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster Nominated


  1. Anti-Defamation League information Archived 2008-04-14 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Pogrebin, Robin. "Songwriting Challenge of Historic Proportions", The New York Times, December 22, 1998, p. E1
  3. Variety, Legit Reviews, Charles Isherwood, December 21, 1998 – January 3, 1999, p. 85
  4. Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), "Poignant Parade probes America's heart", Iris Fanger, p. 19, December 18, 1998
  5. Links to numerous reviews
  6. New York Times, Jesse McKinley, interview with Bernard Gersten, 2/3/99, p. B2
  7. Jones, Kenneth. Playbill News: Parade Will March Into GA, TN, PA, WI, CO, WA in 2000 Tour", Playbill, November 10, 1999 Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Jones, Kenneth. "Parade Tour, with Pittu and Burns, Begins June 13–18 in Atlanta", Playbill, May 12, 2000
  9. Jones, Chris. "Reviews. Parade", Variety, August 14, 2000
  10. "Parade Comes to London Autumn 2007". 22 February 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  11. London casting information, 20 July 2007
  12. London "Parade" to Release Cast Recording (Playbill, 10/24/07) Archived 2008-01-01 at the Wayback Machine
  13. BWW News Desk., June 23, 2009
  14. Hetrick, Adam. "Full Cast Revealed For 'Parade' in Concert Starring Jeremy Jordan and Laura Benanti", Playbill, January 19, 2015


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