From September 27–October 7, Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Tony-winning musical Parade played the historic town of Marietta, Georgia, where the tragic events of history chronicled in the show played out over a century ago.
The production from The Wallace Buice Theatre Company, mounted at The Lyric Studio Theatre in the Square, featured new orchestrations by Brown (on nine of the songs) and marked the first time the musical had been performed in Marietta.
The show tells the true story of the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish man and factory superintendent who was accused of raping and murdering the young Mary Phagan, who worked in the pencil factory he supervised. Frank’s wife Lucille fought to defend her husband’s innocence, earning a commutation of his death sentence to life in prison by the Governor of Georgia—after he reviewed the testimony and problematic proceedings. But, in a South laced with anti-Semitism, a mob stole Frank from the jail and lynched him. The musical won Best Book and Best Original Score at the 1999 Tony Awards.
To mark this historic production, Lucille Frank’s nephew and family attended the closing performance.
“It’s chilling and humbling to play this role here, in the town that so hated him in 1915 for a crime that he did not commit,” says Jared Bradshaw, who played Leo Frank. “It’s been 103 years, and this is still a hot topic for older generations, who learned of this from their parents. I’m shocked that so many in town haven’t ever heard of Georgia’s most famous legal case.
“Mary Phagan’s grave is just a seven-block walk from the theatre, and there’s even some false revisionist history on a family-made grave marker there. The lynching site on Frey’s Gin Road is essentially in a Waffle House parking lot. People drive past that every day not realizing the significance of that historical marker and that parking lot. Just a block from the famous Marietta landmark, the Big Chicken.
“One of the curators of the Bremen Jewish history museum here in downtown Atlanta let my co-star Maggie Salley and I have a private perusal of all of the Frank and Selig family archives. Holding Leo Frank’s prison diary, wedding invitations, and the letters and correspondence between the Franks is humbling, and chilling to say the least. We visited Lucille Frank’s grave here in downtown Atlanta, and the site of the National Pencil Factory here in downtown Atlanta.
“I’ve been lucky to perform in some big multi-million dollar Broadway blockbusters, but I will always cherish doing this show, and this role here. It’s an experience I can’t quite explain. To research all this material and then ‘live’ in this role here has been cathartic.”
Take a look at photos from the production below: