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The Scottsboro Boys in the news

KANDER & EBB’S

 


IN THE NEWS

Production featured IN

THE NEW YORK TIMES, NEW YORK MAGAZINE,

PAPER MAGAZINE AND JERUSALEM POST

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 was further developed this summer at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS 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.

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, which opened October 31 on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street), has been in the news lately:

‘Scottsboro Boys’ is focus of protest

By Patricia Cohen

The New York Times

November 8, 2010

A group of about 30 people gathered on Saturday afternoon in front of the Lyceum Theater to protest a matinee of the new Broadway musical “The Scottsboro Boys,” which retells the story of nine African-Americans between 12 and 19 who were falsely convicted of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931. The show, written by the celebrated team of John Kander and the late Fred Ebb and directed by the Tony-winning director Susan Stroman uses the minstrel tradition to tell the story of how racism infected the judicial system.

The protesters, organized by the Freedom Party, argued that the use of minstrelsy and blackface were racist. Ms. Stroman said she was disappointed that people who probably had not seen the musical misunderstood that the creators were not celebrating the minstrel tradition but rather using it to reveal the evils of the system.

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

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/scottsboro-boys-is-focus-of-protest/?ref=theater

Hard steps to walk a fine line in ‘Scottsboro’

By Patricia Cohen

The New York Times

November 9, 2010

In the new Broadway musical “The Scottsboro Boys,” a black actor plays the part of Samuel Leibowitz, a white Jewish lawyer from New York who defends nine African-American youths wrongly imprisoned for raping two white women in the Alabama town Scottsboro in 1931.

That would be tricky enough if the script played it straight. It doesn’t.

The actor, Forrest McClendon, is playing an actor playing the lawyer. Specifically, he portrays a comic fixture of old-time minstrel shows, here called Mister Tambo, who delivers lines and lyrics in a broadly caricatured style.

The idea is to use the minstrel-show tradition, so clearly offensive to modern sensibilities, to drive home the horror of one of American history’s most shameful episodes of racial injustice. And Mr. McClendon doesn’t mind saying this was one very fraught assignment.

“It was absolutely a very, very fine line to walk,” he explained, as he sat with some of his fellow cast members in the lower lobby of the Lyceum Theater before a recent performance.

The challenge was a result of a bold decision by the musical’s white creators, John Kander and Fred Ebb (who died in 2004) — the celebrated authors of “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” blockbuster hits also with a subversive strain — to use provocative, buffoonish and theatrically extreme language to dramatize a disturbing chapter in American history.

For the African-American actors, however, it means inhabiting roles that in their original incarnations — when minstrel shows constituted the most popular form of live entertainment in 19th-century America — were meant to debase blacks and sentimentalize slavery.

At the same time, the cast must bring the audience members along for the ride, making them comfortable enough to laugh at cartoonish portrayals of blustering white sheriffs, prancing Southern belles and shuffling former slaves while connecting to the anguish of lives ruined by bigotry.

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

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/theater/09scottsboro.html?_r=2&ref=theater

Minstrels with Irony

Two high-steppin’ reasons to see The Scottsboro Boys

By Boris Kachka

New York Magazine

November 15, 2010

“I can’t really explain the shock,” says 12-year-old Jeremy Gumbs, about the first time he had to put on blackface for his role in The Scottsboro Boys—the last musical written by the team of John Kander and the late Fred Ebb—in which the story of nine innocent teenagers jailed for rape in thirties Alabama is told through minstrelsy. But a scant few months later, he’s able to justify the choice almost as well as Kander and Ebb could: “Nobody really wants to see blackface, but it has to be that way. If not, it’s just going to be a regular show. It’s going to be a lie.”

Gumbs’s Eugene Williams is one pillar of the show: the cute, exuberant, and frightened kid who brings home to the audience the absurdity of the charges and the enormity of the injustice. The other is Haywood Patterson, the righteous Scottsboro boy who wrote his story for posterity, played by Joshua Henry. “I’m not Mr. Brooding,” says the upbeat and laid-back Henry, last seen on Broadway in American Idiot. Yet at 26, he finds himself playing the most righteous of the boys, the still center of a “roller coaster of a musical” shot through with minstrelsy’s broad comedy, cross-dressing, and pranks. “[Director] Susan Stroman is helping me trust the stillness,” says Henry. “But sometimes it’s hard playing against people who are dressed like clowns and have a water gun pointed at you.”

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

http://nymag.com/arts/theater/features/69357/

Karma Chameleon

Fourth Time’s a Charm For Actor Colman Domingo, Star of the new Broadway show The Scottsoboro Boys

By Whitney Spaner

Photographed by Alex Uncapher

Paper Magazine

October issue

“Fourth time’s a charm,” actor Colman Domingo says of his fourth Broadway show, The Scottsboro Boys, which opened at the Lyceum Theatre last week. “When I was a kid, my aunt had me look into a crystal ball. She asked what my favorite number was and I said ‘four’ — she was really into numerology,” he explains. Perhaps Auntie Domingo was on to something.
The provocative new musical is a satiric minstrel-style show based on the true story of nine African-American teens falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931 and the decades-long, racially-fueled trials in Scottsboro, Alabama, that followed. It also happens to be the last in a long line of collaborations by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who produced classics like Chicago and Cabaret. Ebb died in 2004, but it was not until this past spring, with the help of director/choreographer Susan Stroman, that Kander felt ready to premiere what he refers to as the duo’s most “political work” off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. Tickets sold out before it opened, and Broadway producers swooped in.  Domingo’s character is not one of the nine accused. Instead, he brings the intensity and bewitchery of a vaudevillian Busta Rhymes to the role of the artful MC, Mr. Bones, who also doubles (with a wink and a nod) as many of the white characters, including a deceptive attorney general and a brutish Southern cop.

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

http://www.papermag.com/arts_and_style/2010/11/karma-chameleon-2.php

Singing a story of American injustice

By Isa Goldberg

Jerusalem Post

November 6, 2010

‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me” may not be a lyric you recognize, but the infectiously haunting tune is one you will.

Remember the Nazi anthem in the musical Cabaret? “It’s absolutely angelic the first time you hear it,” the composer John Kander humbly, but wryly imparts. “And later when you hear the same song and you realize what it means, you suddenly feel betrayed, guilty, or ashamed to see yourself as one of those people.”

With his partner Fred Ebb, the duo created such popular musicals as Chicago, Zorba and Kiss of the Spider Woman to name but a few. Famous for creating Liza Minnelli’s repertoire, including her signature “Liza with a Z,” “Kandernebb” – as Kander now refers to them – are the longest lasting songwriting team in Broadway history. Their latest The Scottsboro Boys, was completed by Kander after Ebb passed away in 2004. Following a brief run Off Broadway last season, the show is now opening on Broadway.

Kander, a Jewish Midwesterner by birth, recalls reading about the trial of the nine black youths, the Scottsboro Boys who were accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931.

“When I was a kid” Kander recalls, “it was in the newspaper almost every day.

And then some years went on and it was in the paper once in a while…and then it wasn’t in the paper at all. They disappeared as if they had never existed.”

As the musical depicts, the nine youths – ages 13 to 21 – were denied the right to legal defense, hastily convicted, and all but one sentenced to death. With more mistrials and appeals, the case spanned two decades, becoming one of the most corrupt and protracted in American history.

Fact is: lives were destroyed for a crime that never occurred. “One of the reasons that we chose their story”, Kander says emphatically, “is because it matters to us. It’s an attempt – maybe one you can only achieve in the theater – to bring them back to life.”

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

http://www.jpost.com/ArtsAndCulture/Entertainment/Article.aspx?id=194264

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