Ben Platt Shares How the Cast of 'Parade' Came Together After a Traumatizing Moment

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Ben Platt Talks his Palace Theatre ResidencyDesign by Leah Romero
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Places, please for ELLE’s theater column Showstoppers, where theater’s biggest stars reflect upon the moment in their career where the famous phrase “the show must go on” became a little too real. When things don’t go according to plan onstage, here’s how the pros react—and what they take away from it.

This month, Ben Platt, whose new album Honeymind is out May 31, talks about a time during a Parade performance when a neo-Nazi protest started outside of the theater. Here, Platt, who is performing a residency at the newly renovated Palace Theatre on Broadway until June 15 before going on tour, shares, in his own words, how the Parade cast supported one another throughout the show.

When we had our first preview of Parade, which I just did at Broadway last year, we had, unexpectedly, some neo-Nazis protesting the performance outside. The musical Parade is about Leo Frank, who is a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murdering a young girl in 1913 Georgia. People still, on the dark web, believe that this is false and that he’s this lecherous, pedophilic Jew.

The neo-Nazis showed up and were handing out pamphlets to the audience waiting in line. We were on stage doing some beautiful Broadway traditions that you do on a first night of a Broadway show. There’s this thing called the “Legacy Robe” that is given to the ensemble member that has been in the most Broadway shows. We were doing a circle and celebrating everybody who was about to make their Broadway debut. While we were doing both of those, we heard the news from outside that the protest was happening, and everyone was really shaken by it. We had a lot of young people playing teenagers in the show. They were really afraid. Some of them were crying. I felt quite shocked to hear that this was real.

new york, new york november 01 micaela diamond and ben platt during the opening night curtain call for parade at new york city center on november 01, 2022 in new york city photo by bruce glikaswireimage
Michaela Diamond and Ben Platt on opening night of Parade Bruce Glikas

I think it was one of those moments where we came back together in our little theater and just looked at each other in the eyes. We made a silent vow that this should be nothing except fuel for the fire of why we were doing the show. We are here to tell this story and to tell it well. What they want is for us to be shaken and distracted. I think we all just kind of silently spent that whole first performance really checking in on each other, holding each other up, and making sure it was as triumphant as it should be. Of course, it was. The show went on.


On why he’s performing his new album Honeymind in the newly-renovated Palace Theatre:

Honeymind is a super warm, organic, live-sounding, intimate, narrative album, and all those things are what I consider to be great musical theater singing, too. It’s just all about communing with the audience and telling a story very directly. It wants to be experienced in a place that’s just a little more traditionally theatrical, rather than a more pop-friendly venue. I think it’s just a really nice match for the texture and emotionality of the music. I knew, even before I knew that there was going to be an opportunity to find a way to do it on Broadway, it would really play beautifully in a more traditional proscenium theater.

“The spine of the set list is certainly a good portion of that album, not the whole thing, but all my favorites from the new record. Interspersed throughout that, we have stuff from my other records. There’s a couple of musical theater moments. There are some covers I’ve done in my career that people have liked from the past. I tried to make sure that it was lightly retrospective and had something for everybody.”

On Michael Arden directing his residency after working with him on Parade:

“I’ve known him for a long time. I met him when we were both performing in an L.A. cabaret. I was like 12, and he was a handsome 20 or something. He put me in a workshop of his when I was a teenager, and I just admired him so much as an artist for so long. Then, we finally got to properly work together on Parade. By that time, we were real friends. I loved the experience of working with him.

“The biggest job for this concert residency was to marry the informality and casual nature of a concert, which I really wanted to maintain, with the slightly more theatrical space of being in a Broadway house. We have been a really beautiful combination for trying to find that balance, so it was kind of a no-brainer to bring him on board. Working with people who you also really love and respect as friends and as colleagues is just the greatest version of making art. It just makes it so much more fulfilling.”

a person standing in front of a screen
Aysia Marotta

On the folk inspiration and queer themes of Honeymind:

“It started coming out quite naturally. When I started writing this album, a lot of it was about my relationship with Noah [Galvin, my fiancé], and a lot of it was about sort of like the stage of adulthood that I’ve reached in terms of self-acceptance and comfortability with myself. The types of things I was writing about and the way that I wanted to articulate them just seemed to match really well with this kind of folk, very plaintive, unadorned, guitar-heavy sound. After the first few songs, I started to seek out writers that really lived in that space, particularly in Nashville. I just was feeling really inspired by listening to a lot of Paul Simon, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, and Carole King, and just loving the honesty and the warts and all of those recordings. I think what’s nice about this record is it lives as a little untouched.

“I also just loved the idea of crossing an expressly queer perspective and expressly queer imagery with this world of Americana folk. It’s not necessarily a combo I have seen a lot. As someone who’s pretty earnest, vulnerable, and emotionally introspective, I would love to see that reflected in a queer lens. As much as I love the queer artists that lead with power, and aggression, and sexuality, and things that are so important that I love to consume as a listener, I think I was really hungry for something that reflected more of how I experienced my relationships, was just something a little softer and more sappy.”

On his grand love story with his fiancé, Noah Galvin:

“I hoped I would have that story. I have been so hyper-focused on my career I think a lot of times in my youth, romance, connection, relationships, and my personal life took a back seat. I didn’t necessarily invest in it sometimes as much as I would’ve liked to, but I feel just really lucky that I got to build a foundation with Noah as a friend. He came to me at a time where we were both really focused on our dreams and what we wanted to accomplish. I love that we were able to grow together and grow into each other. Having that romantic kind of fairytale-y happy ending thing isn’t necessarily at all what I maybe thought it was as a younger person or what I thought I was supposed to be looking for.

“I think I learned that it just turns out that you should really just try to find your best friend. I just feel lucky that I was able to find someone who I not only love, am attracted to, and want to do romantic things for, but who I also just enjoy just being with, spending time with, and experiencing things with. I hoped for it like everybody, but I don’t think I ever knew that I would find it in this way or that I even could find it in this way.”

On the current Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along and the Richard Linklater film adaptation he’s starring in with Beanie Feldstein and Paul Mescal, which will be filmed over several years:

I love the revival. Merrily has some bit of strangeness on stage, just because of the sort of de-aging and re-aging. That whole conceit makes it really challenging, and I think the revival presents it just about as well as you possibly could on stage. [Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez] are impeccably cast and so great.

“It’s been such an amazing little gift [to film] every so often. I try not to think too much about it as a long-term pursuit, because it’s just too daunting to think about how long in advance we’re talking. I just sort of treat it as little individual short films that I get to make every couple of years with my best friend, Beanie, and my new friend, Paul. It’s just this little beautiful Sondheim checkpoint. It’s such a gift in my life, and I can only hope that everybody stays the course and stays well. We’ve gotten two out of nine sequences done, so seven to go.”

a man with a microphone
Aysia Marotta

On the 2023 Rolling Stone interview where Platt was asked about nepotism discourse and his father, who is a producer, and did not comment:

“I just care so much about what I do, and I’ve been working since I was 9 and really have spent the last 20 years trying to get better and focus on putting out good art. I think I feel such a touchy intensiveness and sensitivity to conversation that can sometimes be about invalidating work, or belittling art, or things like that. So, I do regret just giving that [question] too much power.

“Of course, I acknowledge I’m an absolute nepo baby through and through by definition. My dad is a producer. I did grow up with an understanding of the business and an access to it. I will say that was the benefit, more so than it has been getting individual jobs as an adult. I think it really helped me to give me the tools and the foundation to build my career. Now that I have started to build it and really show what I can do, and write, and produce, and song-write, and perform on Broadway, and do film, I do think it’s become much more a journey that I am the sort of autonomous leader of. I think that’s why I maybe felt such a knee-jerk kind of defensive reaction [in the Rolling Stone interview].

“The whole kind of conversation came about because of Dear Evan Hansen, and obviously, I did work on that with my father. I developed that role for many years. I created it. I worked really hard on Broadway to do the part for a year and really came to that movie because of the legacy that I had created in the role. Also, my father is a really wonderful, gifted, creative producer, and particularly produces musical films. This is the kind of job and story that he would’ve done either way, and it just was the first time where it really made sense for us to both do something. It was not a matter of my father coming to me with a script and a movie in hand. Because of that perception or sort of that simplification of the narrative, I think I just got really all up in my feelings and just too defensive about the conversation in general.

“Of course, I absolutely acknowledge the privilege, and the access, and the leg up that I have by being a nepo baby and have really tried throughout my whole career to do good on that opportunity by working hard to meet the opportunity and make the most of it, and just to lead by example and treat people with respect and be somebody that people want to work with because of me, not because of who my pop is.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Ben Platt: Live at the Palace runs until June 15 at the Palace Theatre. Platt then tours across the United States following the release of his new album, Honeymind, out May 31. Tickets for all of his shows can be purchased here.

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