Ben Platt Speaks Out After First Broadway Performance of Parade Was Met with Antisemitic Protesters
At the first performance of the Broadway revival of Parade — a musical about the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man who was lynched in 1915 — antisemitic protesters gathered outside of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City.
In a Twitter video shared by Jake Wasserman, who is the engagement editor for Jewish publication The Forward, one protester asked patrons standing outside the theater on Tuesday, "You want the truth about who you're going to see tonight? You're paying $300 to go f------ worship a pedophile, you might as well know what you're talking about."
Another is heard saying, "Romanticizing pedophiles, wow, Leo Frank," referencing the musical's main character, who is played by Tony Award winner Ben Platt.
The musical dramatizes the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent in Atlanta, Georgia, who was convicted of the 1913 rape and murder of Mary Phagan, his 13-year-old employee. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison two years later by Georgia Governor John M. Slaton. This came after a review of the trial exposed discrepancies in testimonies that appeared to uphold Frank's insistence on his innocence. In 1915, a group of men broke into the Milledgeville, Georgia, prison, kidnapped Frank, and lynched him.
Platt, 29, addressed the scene outside the Jacobs shortly after midnight on Wednesday following the production's first preview performance.
Reflecting on his first show back on Broadway in an Instagram video, Platt said the evening was "so wonderful and special" and acknowledged his costars and the creative team involved in the production.
He then addressed the protests that happened before the show, saying, "Then I got offstage and was looking at social media, and naturally the news of the fact that there were some protesters at our show has spread a lot, and that has kind of [been] the stamp on the evening, in terms of the public perception of the evening."
He added, "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 is about, and just spreading antisemitic rhetoric that led to this whole story in the first place. If you don't know about it, I encourage you to look up the story and most importantly encourage you to come see the show, and 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 who gets to tell this particular story and to carry on this legacy of Leo."
Platt thanked those working at the theater who kept audiences and show members "super safe and secure," adding: "Now is really the moment for this particular piece."
Producers of the Broadway revival also issued a statement to PEOPLE, saying, "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."
RELATED: Ben Platt Will Return to Broadway in 'Parade' — Watch Exclusive First Look with Costar Micaela Diamond
Wasserman later posted an image of the flier protesters were attempting to hand out, which references neo-Nazi and antisemitic hate groups.
According to Broadway World, protesters chanted, "[Leo Frank is] a Jewish pedophile."
RELATED: The True Story Behind the Broadway Musical 'Parade', Starring Ben Platt
Following a sold-out run last fall at New York City Center starring Platt and costar Micaela Diamond, Parade returned to Broadway Tuesday night to a sold-out house. Following preview performances, Parade will officially open March 16 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
According to the production, Leo and Lucille Frank "are a newlywed Jewish couple struggling to make a life in the old red hills of Georgia. When Leo is accused of an unspeakable crime, it propels them into an unimaginable test of faith, humanity, justice, and devotion. Riveting and gloriously hopeful, Parade reminds us that to love, we must truly see one another."
RELATED VIDEO: 'Parade' Is Coming to Broadway! See an Exclusive First Look at Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond
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Leo Frank's trial, conviction and murder attracted national attention to the antisemitism emerging in the south, which led to the birth of the Anti-Defamation League and the revival of the then-defunct Ku Klux Klan.
Parade, which premiered on Broadway in December 1998, features a book by Tony, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner Alfred Uhry, with music and lyrics by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown. It was co-conceived by late theater legend Harold Prince, who directed its Broadway premiere.
Two-time Tony-nominated director Michael Arden directs the revival. Choreography is by Lauren Yalango-Grant and Christopher Cree Grant.
Tickets for Parade are now on sale. Visit ParadeBroadway.com.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.