Micaela Diamond Is Broadway’s Must-see Performance

Micaela Diamond has had a big week. Monday night she made her Met Gala debut, was out late on the after-party scene and awoke on Tuesday morning to a Tony nomination, her first. The 23-year-old New York-based actress stars opposite Ben Platt in “Parade,” one of the season’s most-lauded shows. The show originally opened on Broadway in 1998 and closed after just a couple of months; the 2023 revival crashed the Ticketmaster site when tickets first opened back in January.

The show follows the true story of the 1913 trial and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man living in Georgia with his wife, Lucille. Diamond’s portrayal of Lucille has been noted in nearly every review as a standout of the musical.

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Below, WWD chats with the actress about how she landed the role and why she thinks the story is striking a chord with audiences now.

WWD: How did you first learn of this revival of “Parade?”

Micaela Diamond: I’ve loved the show since I was in high school. The score is so beautiful, and Jason Robert Brown really writes so specifically and beautifully for Jewish characters, I think. And so there’s kind of only a handful of them in the theatrical canon, and so I was drawn to it in high school.

And then the day after my “Cher Show” opening, I got a call from my agent saying I had an audition for “Parade,” just a 29-hour workshop. Actors do 29-hour things all the time. It’s kind of just a way to hear the material out loud, and one out of every 10 go somewhere. Ben Platt was in the reading, and so obviously I was like, “Oh my God, this is crazy.” And I knew the material already, which was nice. It’s such a beloved piece by actors and singers, so we were so excited to kind of redo it, and Michael Arden is such a visionary, and it was so fun to just hear that material.

And then I didn’t hear anything for years — truly three years I didn’t hear anything, and you know, you just think it’s kind of dead in the water. I think now being on this side, I think something was probably going to happen with it, but a pandemic hit, and so obviously everything was pushed back, but I didn’t really know any of that.

And then I got the call in March of last year. It’s one of those magical life-changing moments as an actor. I’m so glad it hit when it did. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any earlier, or [rather] it’s just a perfect time for this piece.

Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt in 'Parade'
Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt in “Parade.”

WWD: Why do you think that is?

M.D.: I don’t know. It feels almost like lightning striking when you have a company like ours, material like ours, the time of America right now. I think that it’s hard to say why something doesn’t work and why it does. I think somehow the universe can decide that. So I don’t know why it didn’t work 25 years ago. Was it because people were not ready to hear about an antisemitic story, or was it because “Ragtime” was also performing at the same time, and tourists were going to go see that show? I don’t know, but I think that unfortunately, antisemitism in the past six months really has been on the rise, and I think sometimes antisemitism kind of rears its head when no one’s expecting it.

And so I think perhaps because the story is so gray, it is just not black and white at all, and it does talk about how Blacks and Jews are pitted against each other as minorities, and it’s on purpose, and how this trauma from all these Southerners losing the Civil War has now created a lot of racist vitriol. And I think that that kind of gray story is something that people are craving, instead of getting something handed to them on a platter. It can just leave room for a lot of thought, and I think people are ready for that.

WWD: What sorts of discussions have you had with people that have seen the show?

M.D.: I’ve had the gamut. I’ve had beautiful emotional responses, like my friend, whose mom had passed, she was reminded that her and her mom used to sing the Shema before bed when she was a kid, and she had forgotten that memory and [the show] just brought that up for her, which was so beautiful. I think that Jews really understand that moment, and it’s not this kind of call, it’s just he is in a situation where he does not have any choices left except to say what is the most instinctual thing to say. And every Jew could say the Shema in their sleep, so it’s actually comforting to him, which is why I love that story because it was a comforting memory, and that’s exactly what Leo was doing.

And then I’ve kind of gotten the other side, the political side of it. Recently someone came up to me and was like, “Why did she stay?” And I was like, “This is a question I have been grappling with since I learned about the piece.” It’s such a wild question. I don’t know why she didn’t stay in Brooklyn after burying him there. I don’t know why she went back. I just can’t fathom living in the same house, but she did, and so you have to sit with that question and wonder what pride means in the South, and what it means to be Southern. I think that’s such a great question to sit with as an audience member. I love that that’s what they took away and wanted to ask me. It’s kind of lovely that none of us know the answer.

WWD: What did you and Ben do to build the connection we see onstage?

M.D.: Ben and I are really cut from the same cloth. We both grew up Jewish and loving musical theater, and watching the Tonys every year, and being nerds about it. And so I think just because our childhoods were similar, it was this moment of, “Oh, we know each other without really knowing-knowing each other.” And then I think just being so in love with this piece has really helped us, I think, in terms of our chemistry and doing the show every night. I think it’s also such a gift as an actor to have an arc where you start in a tense place and have to build, and trust each other, and see each other to end in an actual in-love, better place. That’s actually so cool, and usually it’s the opposite.

Micaela Diamond in “Parade.”
Micaela Diamond in “Parade.”

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