20-Day Countdown! The Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime: #5: PARADE, 1999

Five days until the Tony Awards! We are at #5 on my 20-day Countdown of the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime.

Jason Robert Brown is one of the greatest composing/lyricist talents in the post-Sondheim generation.  He has a musical that graces my top ten of all time (The Last Five Years), and he is a master of tackling tough and quirky topics with utter brilliance and compassion for his odd characters.  Seriously, I urge you, if you want something different, fresh, and remarkable in your Broadway breakfast cereal, check out Jason Robert Brown's work.

And topping his list of bests is today's musical: Parade.  The show dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee at his factory, and thusly sentenced to death.  The trial had heavy antisemitism leanings and the Governor commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, believing that a miscarriage of justice had happened during the trial, that the outcome was largely based on the fact that Frank was Jewish and not on any actual evidence.  The town, outraged at this commuted sentence, decided to take matters into their own hands, resulting in that rare, but necessary, unhappy musical ending that doesn't end with the raucous finale you hope it will.  The events surrounding the real-life investigation and trial led to three groups emerging: the revival of the defunct KKK, the birth of a premier Jewish Civil Rights Organization, and the emergence of The Anti-Defamation League.  If you watch the musical, you will better understand how such hatred and counter-mechanisms to that hatred were formed.  It's an absolutely brilliant and moving commentary on human nature.  Yet, through all the hate -- and the thing that makes Jason Robert Brown so amazing --, is the blossoming of a love story between Leo Frank and his initially cold relationship with his wife, Lucille.  Their story becomes the story of hope through all the hate, pain, and struggle.

Parade opened on Broadway in December 1998, and sadly closed in February 1999, far too soon, after only 39 previews and 84 regular performances; and due to poor audience reception (What's the matter, you can't handle a drama?), Livent Productions had to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The show featured a cast led by the awesome Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello, won six Drama Desk Awards, and two of its nine Tony Award nominations.

So without further ado, here are Carver and Carmello and the remarkable cast of Parade at the 1999 Tony Awards.

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