The actor, who learned to love music at her local temple, has developed a different relationship to her Judaism onstage.
Micaela Diamond once thought she might make a good cantor. The 23-year-old actor loved singing with the congregation at the conservative synagogue she attended as a child in Margate, N.J., just outside Atlantic City. Much has changed since then, notably that you can now hear Diamond’s powerful soprano on Broadway stages. But she’s still, in a way, performing Jewish music: the songs of Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade,” the Broadway revival of which opens March 16.
The musical, which first premiered in 1998 with a book by Alfred Uhry, is based on the life of Leo Frank, an Atlanta Jew who in 1915, while imprisoned after the murder of a young girl he employed at a factory, was pulled from jail by a mob and lynched. Diamond was first cast for the revival’s brief run at New York City Center last fall; she stars opposite Ben Platt as Frank’s wife and fiercest advocate, Lucille.
It’s an intense role vocally, with forceful numbers like “You Don’t Know This Man” and “Do It Alone,” sung by Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production before Diamond was even born. But another difficulty is handling the emotional exhaustion that stems from the themes of violence and antisemitism coursing throughout the piece. “Being able to tell this story to other Jews, to non-Jews, to start nuanced discussions … about what it means to be a Jew and how hatred is inherited is what I want my life’s work to be,” Diamond says. “So much of my identity lives in this show.”
Diamond grew up steeped in Margate’s large Jewish community, but stopped attending services when she moved to New York City with her mother while in middle school. She later found other ways to explore her religion, like joining fellow classmates in the Jewish community club at Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School, one of the country’s most prominent public training grounds for artists. “I just started asking more questions, which, in the end, is a very Jewish thing to do,” Diamond says. “I think my Judaism is Sarah Silverman and a bagel with schmear.”
Diamond had planned to join the musical theater program at Carnegie Mellon University when she got her final callback (while jet-lagged after a Birthright trip to Israel, no less) for her first Broadway production, “The Cher Show,” in which she played a young version of the singer in 2018. That nearly yearlong run was an educational experience of its own — particularly, Diamond says, in learning how to take care of herself while doing eight shows a week. (“Like, does a leading lady have to go to Equinox … every single day?”)
For “Parade,” perhaps unsurprisingly, Diamond is prioritizing “more care for my heart than my body” — in part by gathering with other Jewish cast members to pray together backstage before each performance. “It just feels like honoring Leo and Lucille and remembering how lucky we are to be Jews telling this story,” she says. “It does feel like this kind of centering, and a way to connect to them, before we go through some Jewish trauma onstage.”
Ahead of opening night, T asked Diamond to sing and discuss one of her favorite songs, Joni Mitchell’s “Cactus Tree” (1968), above.
Source: Theater - nytimes.com