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Theatre / Parade

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It's like a foreign land
I didn't understand
Being southern's not just being in the south
Leo Frank, "How Can I Call This Home"

Parade is a musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (his Broadway debut). It opened in 1998, and received nine Tony award nominations the following year, including best musical, winning two (Best Book and Best Original Score). Critics gave it mixed reviews.

The show, Based on a True Story and staying mostly true to history, opens on Confederate Memorial Day and proceeds to follow Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman from Brooklyn, living in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Lucille in 1913. When a young girl named Mary Phagan is found murdered in the basement of the factory Leo manages, Leo finds himself fighting to prove he is not a murderer, grudgingly accepting his wife's help. Proving Leo innocent is made difficult by the relentless work of prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, determined to convict Leo on flimsy evidence with the testimony of Jim Conley. Furthermore, public opinion against Leo is stirred up by newspapermen Britt Craig and Tom Watson. And meanwhile, Mary's friend Frankie Epps vows revenge on her murderer.


The show examines the relationship between Leo and Lucille as well as racism, anti-semitism, and other issues in the post-Reconstruction American south.

Parade provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Cappella: The last note in "The Old Red Hills of Home" is sung without accompaniment. In the revised version that played in London, the chorus of the reprise in the finale starts out this way also.
  • The Alcoholic: We first meet Britt Craig as he's stumbling out of a local bar. Given his banter with the owner, they seem to know each other quite well.
  • Amoral Attorney: Subverted. While Leo's lawyer turns out to be incredibly incompetent, and while this incompetence arguably loses Leo the trial when it's later revealed how easily some of the prosecution's deception could have been exposed, he's not doing it on purpose, and he genuinely believes his client is innocent. After all, if he didn't believe this, then his ultimate strategy, to let Leo speak for himself without any coaching or rehearsing and hope that his genuine emotion moves the court, would make no sense at all.
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  • Angry Mob Song: "Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes," "Hammer of Justice," and "People of Atlanta" in the original version.
  • Anti-Villain: Frankie, who only takes part in Leo's lynching because he honestly believes Leo is guilty. Though his willingness to lie on the stand can put this title into doubt.
  • The Bad Guy Wins
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Hugh Dorsey and Tom Watson. They’re a Big Bad Ensemble at first before they team up during "Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes".
  • Based on a True Story
  • Bookends: "The Old Red Hills of Home"
    • The musical opens with the Young Confederate Soldier saying goodbye to his sweetheart as he goes off to war. At the end, Lucille sings the same melody as she says her last farewell to Leo.
  • Clear My Name / Clear Their Name: Leo and Lucille's motivations, respectively.
  • Crowd Song: The second part of "The Old Red Hills of Home", "There is a Fountain", "Hammer of Justice," and "Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes".
  • Dark Reprise:
    • The "Finale" number wraps up with a reprise of "The Old Red Hills of Home". Interestingly handled, in that the scoring does not change from the soaring, inspiring theme of the opening, but the meaning is completely different, as the people singing are no longer young Confederate soldiers but members of The Klan. The effect is quite chilling.
    • In the revised and current version, the orchestra cuts out when the chorus comes in.
    • More overtly, "Real Big News" reprises the melody of "The Picture Show" when Britt and the other journalists are getting dirt on Leo.
  • Death Song: Leo sings the "Sh'ma", to the tune of "The Old Red Hills of Home", right before he is lynched.
  • Defector from Decadence: Officer Ivy, a member of the lynch mob that kidnaps Leo Frank and hangs him after he's spared from the death penalty, is the one who suggests sparing Leo's life if he simply "confesses", and upon seeing Leo refuse to, in tears, declaring that whatever God's plan for him is, he knows for certain it isn't for him to stand up and tell a bald-faced lie, realizes with horror that Leo Frank is in fact innocent. S/he fails to convince the others of this, refuses to take further part in the lynching, and has to stand aside in horror as the others hang Leo.
  • Distant Duet: "Leo at Work / What Am I Waiting For?" Leo is at his office; Lucille is at her vanity. Also notable in that Leo and Lucille are singing completely different songs that keep stepping on each other's heels, conveying how disconnected and unsatisfied they are at the beginning of the play.
  • Distant Prologue: The first scene in the play and the first half of the opening number take place in 1862, fifty-one years before the plot begins.
  • Downer Ending
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "All the Wasted Time".
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Tom Watson and Hugh Dorsey are both baritones.
  • Epic Rocking: "The Old Red Hills of Home" owns this trope.
  • Final Love Duet: "All the Wasted Time" (also the only love duet). In soaring comparison to "Leo at Work / What Am I Waiting For?" (see Distant Duet above).
  • Flashback: The first part of "The Old Red Hills of Home" to the American Civil War.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since it's based on history...
  • Good Is Dumb: Leo's lawyer Rosser is pretty damn awful at his job, but he genuinely thought his client was innocent and was doing his best to get him proven innocent.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Though he is innocent, Leo Frank is not depicted as a nice person (at least at first). He hates living in the South and despises its people ("These men belong in zoos. It's like they've never joined civilization."). He also fails to appreciate his wife's love and devotion until he sees how hard she strives to have him exonerated.
  • Grief Song: "It Don't Make Sense", the number played during Mary's funeral.
    • Also, Lucille singing to Leo in the "Finale".
    • And "My Child Will Forgive Me," for Mary's mother.
  • Hope Spot: "This Is Not Over Yet". Lucille successfully convinces Governor Slaton to re-open Leo's case, and Leo and Lucille sing an exuberant duet about their fortunes finally changing. Unfortunately, even though Slaton commutes Leo's sentence to life imprisonment, a mob takes it upon themselves to abduct Leo and carry out the original death sentence.
  • I Die Free: At the end, Lucille sings that Leo is "finally free".
  • Imagine Spot: "Come Up To My Office," which displays Leo as a lecherous, predatory monster based on the (false) testimonies of the factory girls he employed.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Britt Craig.
  • "I Want" Song: "How Can I Call This Home?" for Leo, "What Am I Waiting For?" for Lucille, and more subtly "Big News!" for Craig.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Several witnesses testifying against Leo have been coached, coerced, or blackmailed by Amoral Attorney Hugh Dorsey.
  • Karma Houdini: Jim Conley. He rapes and murders a girl, but Leo Frank takes the fall for it and is eventually lynched. Also, Conley testifies against Frank in court. None of the Klan members who lynch Frank are ever punished either. And Hugh Dorsey, despite actions that should gotten him disbarred or at least suspended/censured, is eventually elected Governor of Georgia, while Tom Watson presumably continues to write for his newspaper without his actions being discovered.
  • Large Ham: Herndon Lackey as prosecutor Hugh Dorsey:
    Dorsey: "There will be but one verdict in this trial: Guilty! ... Guilty ... GUILTY!!" Taken directly from court transcripts.
    • Britt Craig, of a more comic relief variety.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Played straight when Governor Slaton commutes Leo's death sentence to life in prison; subverted in that it didn't matter in the end, since Leo was lynched.
  • Last Request: Leo makes two of the lynch mob: that he has a sack wrapped around his waist so he isn't exposed when his body is found, and that his wedding ring is delivered to Lucille. Both are honored.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The lynch mob.
  • Malicious Slander: Leo is a victim of this.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Real Big News", "Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?"
  • Meaningful Funeral: Mary's. Not only does it provide a forum for Frankie to vow revenge, but the number effectively reminds the audience the murder was a terribly sad event in the first place.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Leo's conviction.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: "The local hotels wouldn't be so packed / If a little black girl had gotten attacked!"
  • Mood Whiplash: The end of "My Child Will Forgive Me". After how sympathetic Ms. Phagan is painted as, she quickly ends the song by rudely snapping at Leo.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Craig feels this way before the story breaks.
  • One-Word Title
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: The violently anti-Semitic people of rural Georgia are already suspicious of Leo Frank because he is Jewish, but the fact that he is one of the few men in town with a college degree doesn't help matters, something Britt points out in "Real Big News." Prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, milking the Simple Country Lawyer persona for all it's worth, even cites Leo's "big fancy talk" as evidence that he can't be trusted.
  • Pet the Dog: A very minor example, but the person who delivers Leo's wedding ring to Lucille after his lynching is a remorseful Britt Craig, who, while not one of the main antagonists, undeniably played a part in getting Leo killed.
  • Politically Correct History: Lampshaded.
  • Say Your Prayers: Leo starts reciting the Shema Yisrael, a prayer Jews traditionally supposed to say as their last words when he's about to be lynched.
  • Scary Black Man: We eventually learn Conley was this. And despite being white, Frank is depicted as this because he's Jewish.
  • Setting Introduction Song: "The Old Red Hills of Home" introduces the audience to life in postbellum Atlanta, particularly the undercurrents of injured Southern pride and a simmering hatred for the North.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: "Big News!" shows that Britt is not the humblest guy in town by any stretch.
  • Smug Snake: Britt Craig.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The end of the trial - with Leo being found guilty and sentenced to hang until he is dead - is underscored by an upbeat ragtime cakewalk from the orchestra, as the citizens of Atlanta rejoice at the verdict. And yes, this really happened.
    • Which then veers into a protracted cacophony (including the cakewalk being played in two keys at once, an agonising semitone apart), just to hammer home how ugly and hateful the celebrations are.
  • Tenor Boy: Though most of the cast are tenors, this is definitely Mary's friend Frankie Epps.
  • Villain Song: Tons, but collectively "Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?"
    • "That's What He Said" for Jim Conley is also important.
    • "Something Ain't Right" for Hugh Dorsey and "Hammer of Justice" for Tom Watson.
    • Subverted by "Come Up To My Office", an alleged Flashback in which the evil version of Frank described by the coached prosecution witnesses tries to seduce underage girls.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Right before he is lynched, the mob offers Leo a choice: if he confesses to them that he murdered Mary Phagan, they will spare his life and let him serve his life imprisonment sentence. Although terrified, Leo refuses to tell them "a bald-faced lie", and he dies with his conscience intact.


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