This past week I attended the official opening night of the Tony-nominated musical The Scottsboro Boys (the show received twelve nominations including Best Musical back in 2011) here in Los Angeles at downtown’s Ahamanson Theatre. Going into the show, I really wasn’t sure what to expect (especially with such heavy source material) but I did hear great things so I went in with an open mind. After it was finished, it was clear to me that The Scottsboro Boys was without a doubt one of the most original shows I had ever seen, it was completely brilliant on so many levels.
The Scottsboro Boys is sadly the last collaboration between composer John Kander and late lyricist Fred Ebb (famous for such shows as Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman, to name just a few) and it tells the true tale of nine black men who were unjustly convicted (numerous times) of raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama back in the 1930s. The case (which you can read about in-depth here) gained tons of national attention but justice was never truly served until the Governor of Alabama finally pardoned them all just last month after nearly seventy years, although none of the men are alive today. Kander and Ebb decided to tell the story by way of a minstrel show (altered to “create a musical social critique”), with a cast made up entirely of African-American performers, except the ‘Interlocutor’ (played by Hal Linden of Barney Miller fame) who’s the ‘host’ of the show.
The completely riveting and compelling show is a total artistic triumph and the musical numbers are Kander & Ebb at their very best with numerous memorable songs. I am still amazed by how the award-winning team were able to tell this harrowing and to be frank, depressing tale by way of a musical. Kander & Ebb changed the musical theater landscape (these two are no Rodgers & Hammerstein) forever with their second collaboration, Cabaret back in 1966 (still one of my favorite musicals to this day), almost 50 years later and many shows in between, they’ve left us with yet another piece of work that breaks new ground. Their inventive and thoughtful collaborations will be sorely missed yet they surely went out on a very high note. The show is playing now through June 30th here in in LA, if you’re a musical theater buff like myself, The Scottsboro Boys is not to be missed.
PS Check out this LA Times article about actor Joshua Henry who reprises his Tony-nominated role.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
|PHOTOS | CRAIG SCHWARTZ FOR CENTER THEATRE GROUP|