- CHARITY BENEFIT
The Scottsboro Boys is full of talent on so many levels. From the moment the show starts it has Susan Stroman’s, stamp of showmanship blazing in full glory. It is flawless in terms of a theatrical spectacle; utilizing the minstrel show format in song and dance it leads us into a world that should never be forgotten. The chorography is athletism at it’s best, always challenging yet satisfyingly inventive. Stroman is both the chorographer and the director and this is her swan song. The cast is full of boundless energy, triple threats; everyone one has a star turn. The book by David Thompson is sinister, poignant, searing and difficult to take in. Not because he doesn’t tell the story well, but because of the source material. Beowulf Boritt’s set of silver stackable chairs is reminiscent of Violet, turning into whatever is needed, be it a boxcar or a prison cell. Stroman has added mini tambourines, which function much the same way. John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote the music and lyrics and conceived this project. Ebb who passed away never saw it come to fruition. Much like their shows before, The Scottsboro Boys tackles a difficult and painful subject. Even the format of a minstrel show throws racism in our face. Based on a true story of nine black teenagers (13-19) whose lives are shattered after two Alabama harlots falsely accuse them of rape. The time is 1931 and if you are black you are guilty. John Cullum the only white man on stage is all Southern gentility as he condescendingly calls on Mr. Bones (Colman Domingo) and Mr. Tambo (Forrest Mc-Clendon) to tell the tale. Reeking in grotesque caricatures, they play crooked lawmen, sadistic prison guards and drunken yet patronizing attorneys.
White supremacy dominates the lyrics. The chilling “Electric Chair,” sung by angelic Jeremy Gumbs, the 13 year old who doesn’t even know what rape is, cuts like a knife of vulnerability and horror. The Nine work as a unit with Joshua Henry in the key role of Haywood, standing out as a powerhouse of truth and injustice. As the lone woman, Sharon Washington is the past, the present and the future of where we still have not gone. Injustice hits you with a one, two emotional punch and you feel empty and distraught by the end of this piece. Even Jews are not missed as the lawyer who is sent in to defend the nine is dismissed because of his race. I felt guilty every time I applauded. This is humanity at it’s worse, prejudice blaring like a sword cutting deep into the souls of those who watch. It is painful, disturbing and horrifying.
Originally produced at the Vineyard Theatre, The Scottsboro Boys re-enters Broadway via the Lyceum Theatre. This haunting significant piece reveals what we lack as humans and I am disgusted with where we have come from. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, made fun of our past. The Scottsboro Boys shoves it in our face like an open wound that we are somehow apart of. I sometimes wonder if atrocities should be musicalised, it trivializes the events and deadens the heart.
The Scottsboro Boys rates as one of the best shows I have seen and one of the most disturbing.
Also staring: Josh Breckenridge (Olen Montgomery), Derrick Cobey (Andy Wright), Rodney Hicks (Clarence Norris/Preacher), Kendrick Jones (Willie Roberson/Electrified Charlie), James T. Lane (Ozie Powell/Ruby Bates), Julius Thomas III (Roy Wright/Electrified Isaac/Billy) and Christian Dante White (Charles Weems/Victoria Price)
Lyceum Theater, 149 West 45th Street, Manhattan