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John Kander discusses The Scottsboro Boys with Pioneer Press, American Jewish World




American Jewish World


St. Paul Pioneer Press


(Minneapolis/St. Paul) The Scottsboro Boys began preview performances this past weekend at the Guthrie Theater, kicking off an eight-week engagement through September 25. The critically-acclaimed production, directed by five-time Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman and featuring a book by David Thompson, comes to the Guthrie following a sold-out Off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre earlier this year. Immediately following its Guthrie run, the production will move to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, where it will begin performances on October 7 in advance of its official October 31, 2010, opening.



by Mordecai Specktor

American Jewish World (August 4, 2010)

(Minneapolis) John Kander traveled from his home in New York City to Minneapolis last week to help tune up his new musical, The Scottsboro Boys, at the Guthrie Theater. Kander, half of the famed songwriting team of Kander and Ebb, has enjoyed Broadway success for his musical contributions to shows including Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman. The tunesmiths also wrote “New York, New York,” a song identified with Frank Sinatra.

The Scottsboro Boys, which is being previewed this week and opens Aug. 6 at the Guthrie, before its Broadway opening at the end of October, represents the last collaboration between Kander and his musical partner Fred Ebb, who died in 2004.

During a recent telephone interview with the Jewish World from his home in New York City, Kander discussed his storied career, the origins of his current show, and the amazing success of Jews in the realm of American popular song.

In the way of background, the Kander and Ebb collaboration spanned four decades. In addition to tunes for musicals, TV and the movies, the duo wrote songs for Barbra Streisand (“My Coloring Book” was an early hit for the songwriters and earned them a Grammy nomination), Liza Minnelli, Sinatra and others.

Kander and Ebb’s first Broadway show was Flora, the Red Menace, in 1965, which was produced by Hal Prince and directed by George Abbott. That was followed by, among other shows, Cabaret, for which Kander and Ebb won the Tony Award for music and lyrics; The Happy Time; Zorba; Chicago; The Act; Woman of the Year (Tony Award for music and lyrics); The Rink; Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony for music and lyrics); and Steel Pier.

With the death of lyricist Ebb, Kander was left with several projects in various stages of completion, including The Scottsboro Boys

[Continue to the full American Jewish World story]



by Chris Hewitt

Pioneer Press (August 1, 2010)

(St. Paul, Minn.) Musicals always take a long time to come together, but “The Scottsboro Boys,” which opens at the Guthrie Theater this week, may be a record. You could argue the idea started 70 years ago at a summer camp in Superior, Wis.

“I’m a boy from Kansas City, and I used to go up there every summer for camp,” says composer John Kander, who, with the late Fred Ebb, wrote “Scottsboro Boys,” as well as “Cabaret,” “Chicago” and many other musicals.

Kander canoed, fished and swam in Superior, and he also participated in the writing of an annual show, often performed by campers and counselors wearing blackface makeup.

“I guess that was my first exposure to a minstrel show,” says Kander, who is in town to tinker with the Guthrie’s version of “Scottsboro.” “We did one every year. I was 13, and I had been messing around with music, and the music counselor at camp was not very good, so I got to do it. I remember afterward, the director gave me $25, and I thought, ‘They gave me this great privilege to write music and they gave me money too?’ ”

Minstrel shows, with their offensive characterizations of black characters usually played by white actors, fell out of fashion long ago. But Kander, who’s 83, and Ebb decided to revisit the form with “Scottsboro.” It uses the vaudeville-like format of a minstrel show, except with black actors, to tell the true story of nine young men and boys who were wrongly convicted in Scottsboro, Ala., of raping two white women in 1931.

[Continue to the full St. Paul Pioneer Press story]


The Scottsboro Boys began preview performances in Minneapolis on July 31. The production opens August 6 and continues through September 25, 2010, on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. Single tickets start at $29 and are now on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (Group Sales) and online at www.guthrietheater.org.

The GUTHRIE THEATER (Joe Dowling, Director) was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 and is an American center for theater performance, production, education and professional training. The Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theater is dedicated to producing the great works of dramatic literature, developing the work of contemporary playwrights and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. With annual attendance of nearly 500,000 people, the Guthrie Theater presents a mix of classic plays and contemporary work on its three stages. Under the artistic leadership of Joe Dowling since 1995, the Guthrie continues to set a national standard for excellence in theatrical production and performance. In 2006, the Guthrie opened its new home on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the Guthrie Theater houses three state-of-the-art stages, production facilities, classrooms and dramatic public lobbies.

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