I Loved a Parade


Last night Parade closed at Jewish Family Theatre after six successful performances. As always, I am sad to see a show end. But, it is time to move on.

Parade is the story of Leo Frank, the Jewish factory supervisor from Brooklyn transplanted to Altanta. There he was accused and convicted of assualting and murdering 13-year-old Mary Phagan. Frank was convicted and sentenced to hang. Governor John Slaton later commuted the sentence, but Frank was removed from prison and lynched.

In the musical, I played both the judge who sentenced Frank to hang, as well as a leader of the lynch mob. Before rehearsals began, I apologized to the actor playing Frank. Of course I was being a little facetious. We both knew that we were acting and that we were telling a story.

An important story to tell.

In 1982, Alonzo Mann came forward to tell his story. Mann had been an office boy in the factory. As an old man in his 80s, Mann swore in an affidavit that he had seen the factory janitor, Jim Conley, carrying the body of Mary Phagan to the basement. This contradicted Conley’s version of the story. But Mann was just 14 at the time. he was threatened by Conley, and told by his parents not to tell what he had seen.

Leo Frank was finally granted a pardon in 1986.

It’s a fascinating story. The musical premiered in 1998 and won two Tony Awards. A television mini-series was filmed here in Richmond in 1988.

I’m sure you’re thinking “this is a musical?” just like the ladies behind my wife at opening night who said “this is not like The Sound of Music.”

No, it’s not. It’s actually more factual.

It’s not a pretty story. But it’s one that should be told.

I was a bit taken aback by how exhausting the actual performance of the show was. Not from a physical standpoint, but from an emotional and mental standpoint.

Emotions run deep in the show. And I was not a principal character. Still, it was a challenging show and a challenging role.

The music was as complicated as the story, but it was beautifully directed and performed.

The best part about the show being over is that I finally get to shave off these mutton chops I’ve been wearing for the last two weeks.

What’s that you say about rest? There won’t be any.

You know I’m co-producing and acting in my next show, right? And, promoting two other?

Not to mention getting ready to walk in the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K. have you sponsored me yet?

In a way, it’s just one more Parade.


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