Parade is a musical with a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1998 and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of nine nominations) and six Drama Desk Awards. The show has had a U.S. national tour and numerous professional and amateur productions in both the U.S. and abroad.
The musical dramatises the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The trial, sensationalised by the media, aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank's death sentence was commuted to life in prison by the departing Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton due to his detailed review of over 10,000 pages of testimony and possible problems with the trial, Leo Frank was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan's hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree. The events surrounding the investigation and trial led to two groups emerging: the revival of the defunct KKK and the birth of the Jewish Civil Rights organisation, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Harold Prince turned to Brown to write the score after Stephen Sondheim turned the project down. Prince's daughter, Daisy, had brought Brown to her father's attention. Uhry, who grew up in Atlanta, had personal knowledge of the Frank story, as his great-uncle owned the pencil factory run by Leo Frank. In dramatising the story, Prince and Uhry have emphasised the evolving relationship between Leo and his wife Lucille.Their relationship shifts from cold to warm in songs like "Leo at Work/What am I Waiting For?," "You Don't Know This Man," "Do it Alone," and "All the Wasted Time".
The poignancy of the couple, who fall in love in the midst of adversity, is the core of the work. It makes the tragic outcome - the miscarriage of justice - even more disturbing. The show was Brown's first Broadway production. His music, according to critic Charles Isherwood, has "subtle and appealing melodies that draw on a variety of influences, from pop-rock to folk to rhythm and blues and gospel."
The plot of the musical dramatises the historical story and does not shy away from the conclusion of some that the likely killer was the factory janitor Jim Conley, the key witness against Frank at the trial. The true villains of the piece are portrayed as the ambitious and corrupt prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (later the governor of Georgia and then a judge) and the rabid, anti-semitic publisher Tom Watson (later elected a U.S. senator).