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The Scottsboro Boys in the news

KANDER & EBB’S


IN THE NEWS

Production featured in

The New York Times, Variety, Playbill.com, Broadway.com

OPENING NIGHT OCTOBER 31 AT THE LYCEUM THEATRE

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS is the thrilling final collaboration by musical theatre giants John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret). Based on the notorious “Scottsboro” case in the 1930s (in which nine African-American men were unjustly accused of a terrible crime) this daring and wildly entertaining musical explores a fascinating chapter in American history with brilliant originality. This critically-acclaimed production, directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman (The Producers) and featuring a book by David Thompson (who adapted the script for Chicago‘s record-breaking revival), comes to Broadway following a sold-out run at the Vineyard Theatre.

The production is the winner of the 2010 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical and a 2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics.   The show has also been nominated for four AUDELCO Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre, including Outstanding Musical Production.

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS had its world premiere earlier this year at the Vineyard Theatre, where it was heralded by Entertainment Weekly as “a cause for rejoicing,” “a masterwork” by the New York Post, “staggeringly inventive” by the Associated Press and “dazzling, riveting and toe-tapping with real teeth” by Variety.  NY1 called the production “one of the most satisfyingly original shows to open in a very long time!,” while Bloomberg News raved “Susan Stroman is in top form here — razor sharp dancing and soaring music, some of Kander and Ebb’s best!”

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS was further developed this summer in a critically acclaimed production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (Joe Dowling, Director), where it played from July 31 through September 25 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage.

Set design is by Beowulf Boritt, costume design is by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design is Ken Billington and sound design is by Peter Hylenski.  Orchestrations are by Larry Hochman, with musical arrangements by Glen Kelly.  Music direction is by David Loud.

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS is produced on Broadway by Barry and Fran Weissler, Jacki Barlia Florin, Janet Pailet/Sharon Carr/Patricia R. Klausner, Nederlander Presentations Inc./The Shubert Organization Inc., Beechwood Entertainment, Broadway Across America, Mark Zimmerman, Adam Blanshay/R2D2 Productions, Rick Danzansky/Barry Tatelman, Bruce Robert Harris/Jack W. Batman, Allen Spivak/Jerry Frankel, Bard Theatricals/Probo Productions/Randy Donaldson, Catherine Schreiber/Michael Palitz/Patti Laskawy, Vineyard Theatre.

The production, now in previews on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street), has been in the news lately, in advance of its October 31 opening.

Bigotry and blackface, finely tuned

By Pat Healy

THE NEW YORK TIMES
October 17, 2010

NO star actors. (Check.) A complex cast of characters. (Check.) A plot based on a low moment in American history. (Check.) Songs that satirize racism, anti-Semitism, and execution by electric chair. (Check.) And all told by resurrecting one of theater’s most controversial storytelling devices, the minstrel show. (Check.)

Has there ever been a new Broadway musical facing a more daunting checklist of challenges than “The Scottsboro Boys,” which dares to set an infamous 1930s Alabama rape trial to music?

And yet, reader, and yet: A new leading man with major charisma. (Check.) Carefully inserted dialogue and laugh lines to help humanize each of those many characters. (Check.) A legendary songwriting team that over the years has turned cynicism and corruption — hey, even the Third Reich — into hummable stage gold. (Check.) And all told by a Tony Award-winning director who has staged some of the wittiest musical numbers in recent Broadway history. (Check.)  …

There is no romance in this $4 million “Scottsboro” musical, no mothers and fathers, and certainly no happy ending via a rewrite of American history. Unlike the Wicked Witch’s comeback in the revisionist “Wicked,” most of Broadway’s Scottsboro boys languish in prison for years, and, while none of the actual prisoners were put to death, a few meet grim fates. Framing the story as a minstrel show, while subversivsely comic, means that derogatory language and blackface are part of the action.

What “The Scottsboro Boys” does have, beyond a lively score from Mr. Kander and his lyricist partner, Fred Ebb, is original storytelling, a promising cast of Broadway newcomers, and a certain resonance with modern-day injustices.

“There’s a kind of racism in America today that is so insidious, the way enemies of our black president use code language to depict him as the ‘other,’ and that part of our world has a direct through-line back to the Scottsboro boys,” said the 83-year-old Mr. Kander, who also contributed lyrics after Mr. Ebb died in 2004.

To read the complete article, click on the following link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/theater/17scottsboro.html?_r=1&ref=theater

‘Scottsboro’ courts black auds

Legit marketers deepen outreach to African American theatergoers

By Gordon Cox

VARIETY

October 17, 2010

A Broadway musical with a cast made up almost entirely of African-African actors enacting a pre-civil rights tale of injustice? Seems like a natural candidate for outreach to black theatergoers.

But for “The Scottsboro Boys” there’s a catch: The production is presented as a minstrel show. And marketers are finding that with “Scottsboro,” it’s not enough simply to reach out to African-American auds. They need to find ways for the audience to respond to the feelings the show provokes.

“It’s definitely controversial, in the art form that’s being presented,” says marketer Sandie M. Smith, who also has helped engineer multicultural outreach on shows including “The Color Purple” and “Memphis.” “Approaching it in an honest, straightforward way is our best tactic.”

In past decades, legiters often believed black auds wouldn’t turn out for Broadway shows. But that notion has eroded in the wake of hits whose success can be attributed in large part to black turnout: The 2004 revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” kicked off a string of successes that has included 2005 tuner “The Color Purple” and last season’s revival of “Fences.”

And as the delicate positioning of “Scottsboro” illustrates, bringing in African-American auds is no more a one-size-fits-all endeavor than selling a show to any other broad demographic of theatergoers.

“There’s no cookie-cutter way of approaching a multicultural audience,” Smith says.

To read the complete article, click on the following link:

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118025750.html?categoryid=15&cs=1&ref=vertlegit

Brief Encounter with Susan Stroman

By Ken Jones

Playbill.com

October 16, 2010

Susan Stroman, the Tony Award-winning director and choreographer who brought shape and magic to The Producers, Contact, Crazy for You and other Broadway musicals, is the guiding hand of the new Kander & Ebb musical The Scottsboro Boys. With this serious-minded show that boasts an all-male ensemble (save for the haunting presence of a mysterious lady), Stroman has no leggy ladies doing splits, no tap-dancing couples and no conventional romantic chemistry to play with. Any lack of “traditional” musical theatre elements is made up by the sense of family in the company she has gathered. “Harmony,” she called it — choreographic, vocal, emotional, satiric. The presentational Scottsboro Boys, now playing Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, borrows a defunct theatrical form — the minstrel show — to tell the fact-inspired famous story of nine African-American men or boys wrongly incarcerated for crimes that did not happen in 1930s Alabama. In between rehearsals, Stroman talked about putting it together.

What attracted you to the idea of this show?
Susan Stroman: Well, you know, when you live in the musical theatre world, you don’t always get to tell a true story — we tell a more fantastical story. And so when John Kander, Fred Ebb and David Thompson and I got together, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to tell a true story?” So we started to look at…trials and research the famous American trials, and The Scottsboro Boys [is] one of the most famous. And in doing more research, seeing these extraordinary characters like [lawyer] Sam Leibowitz from New York and the nine guys themselves, it just seemed like a story that needed to be told. And as we chose that story and then started to write it, it just “wrote fast”: Kander and Ebb so wanted to write a song about [accuser] Ruby Bates and so wanted to write a song for the nine Scottsboro Boys… They couldn’t wait. We couldn’t wait to meet all the time. So you know you have something good if you get that idea and then can’t wait to meet.

When did you first meet on the topic?
SS: Well, we first started to meet in 2002, 2003, and we were working on it. It was going really well, and then sadly, in 2004, Fred Ebb died. And it was put on a shelf. I didn’t think we’d ever see it again. And then, about two-and-a-half years ago, John Kander said, “Would you look at this again?” And I said, “Of course!” John Kander’s the greatest and nicest and most talented man in musical theatre. So then we started to meet around my kitchen table, and I realized how far we had come with it before. And Kander said that he would do the new lyrics, and we started to write, write, write…

To read the complete article, click on the following link:

http://www.playbill.com/celebritybuzz/article/144021-PLAYBILLCOMS-BRIEF-ENCOUNTER-With-Susan-Stroman

What’s up John Kander?  The legendary composer talks The Scottsboro Boys, Cabaret and Liza

By Michael Mellini

Broadway.com

October 8, 2010

Few men have left their mark on Broadway quite like composer John Kander. Alongside the late lyricist Fred Ebb, Kander created some of Broadway’s most popular and iconic musicals, including Chicago and Cabaret. He’s won three Tony Awards, two Grammys and two Emmys, the latter of which resulted from his longtime collaboration with Liza Minnelli. Kander’s music is now back on Broadway as The Scottsboro Boys readies for an October 31 opening. The musical, which tells the true story of nine young African Americans falsely accused of rape in 1920s Alabama, is performed in the minstrel show format and marks the final collaboration between Kander and Ebb before Ebb’s 2004 death. Broadway.com snuck down to the basement of the Lyceum Theatre with Kander during a Scottsboro rehearsal break to talk to the 83-year-old composer about his lengthy career and the social importance of his latest work.

Why did you decide to create The Scottsboro Boys in the minstrel style?
It was because of the story we were telling. It’s a story with lots of characters that takes place over many years. That’s hard to tell in a straight theatrical form, but once we stumbled upon the minstrel show form it opened up everything. In a minstrel show you could have the whole company sing, there’d be individual songs and cakewalks, stories can jump all over the place…that gave us the freedom to do something not so linear. At the time these guys were arrested, there were still lots of minstrel shows. I saw several as a kid and even put one together at camp, but they’re unabashedly racist. The demeaning nature of these shows becomes a perfect metaphor for the way these guys were treated.

Was there any concern audiences might not understand the metaphor and just find it off-putting?
That’s certainly not our intention. We had a problem like that in Cabaret with the gorilla song [“If You Could See Her”] in that no matter how clearly we were satirizing anti-Semitism, people thought we were saying Jews were gorillas. I think anybody with half a mind would look at this and realize our use of the minstrel show is very much a story of oppression. When we first started, we were very curious about how a black cast would feel about it, and they all got it right away.

Did this unsettling material take its toll on you while writing?
It’s just as much fun to write about unhappy things. I mean, we wrote about Nazis and people in prison cells in South America! The subject matter doesn’t necessarily make writing easier or harder. Fred and I always took pleasure in writing seductively about things that are really awful so people suddenly realize they’re having a good time at the expense of others. Like we did “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” [from Cabaret] in two sections. There’s one really sweet version where the audience thinks “Oh isn’t this wonderful,” and then you realize later it’s a Nazi anthem. There are songs in [Scottsboro Boys] where your toes start tapping and you think, “Those guys are having a great time.” Then you realize what the songs are really about. Sometimes you can make people think about things before they’ve realized they’ve been trapped.

To read the complete article, click on the following link:

http://www.broadway.com/shows/scottsboro-boys/buzz/153832/whats-up-john-kander-the-legendary-composer-talks-scottsboro-boys-cabaret-and-liza/

The Scottsboro Boys’ Joshua Henry on His Busy Road to Leading Man

By Michael Mellini

Broadway.com

October 14, 2010

Hometown: Miami, FL

Age: 26

Currently: Starring in The Scottsboro Boys as Haywood Patterson, a young African-American man falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1931 Alabama.

One of the Boys: The Scottsboro Boys isn’t simply Henry’s first leading Broadway role—it’s the lead in the final collaboration between Chicago and Cabaret composers John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. “I had tests on these people at school, and now I’m not only working with John Kander, but he’s pulling me in a corner to tell me he loves what I’m doing? It just feels crazy,” Henry gushes. Aside from pleasing the Broadway great, Henry also has the responsibility of telling the true life story of Haywood Patterson, the innocent man turned lifetime convict. “His voice wasn’t heard while he was going through the trials and rough times, so to tell audiences the conditions he faced in prison and how he felt day to day is a privilege,” Henry says of the racially charged story. “Every night the cast gets in a circle and reminds ourselves how it important it is to tell the story of these men and make it matter.”

To read the complete article, click on the following link:

http://www.broadway.com/shows/scottsboro-boys/buzz/153917/the-scottsboro-boys-joshua-henry-on-his-busy-road-to-leading-man/

Video Coverage from October 6 Press Event

Playbill.com

Broadway.com

BroadwayWorld.com

Tickets ($39.50 – $131.50; Premium $251.50) are available by calling Telecharge.com at 212-239-6200, online at www.telecharge.com and at the Lyceum Theatre box office (149 West 45th Street).   Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 8:00 PM, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 PM.

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