The AndyGram

Saturday, Apr 19th

You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2010-11 Reviews Broadway Review: THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS
Thursday, 11 November 2010 17:30

Broadway Review: THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS

Written by 
Coleman Domingo (l) and Forrest McClendon with John Cullum (c) in The Scottsboro Boys Coleman Domingo (l) and Forrest McClendon with John Cullum (c) in The Scottsboro Boys Photo: Paul Kolnik

It seems that this past week there was a bit of a dust-up at The Scottsboro Boys.  According to the “New York Times” a group of 30 protesters picketed the production for its depiction of a racially sensitive topic in what some consider a racially provocative way (many of the picketers had not seen the show).  The Scottsboro Boys tells the history of nine black teenagers who, in 1931 were riding the rails looking for work.  While passing through Sottsboro, Alabama the nine were accused of raping two white women who were also on the train.  The men were railroaded through multiple trials, each time an all white jury found them guilty, a horrible story and a blemish on our country’s history.  The device used to tell this story is the minstrel show, replete with black-face and plenty of “Stepin Fetchit.” 

The review headline of The Amsterdam News, a prominent New York newspaper with a predominately African American readership declared “The Scottsboro Boys a Blight on Broadway.”  Critic Linda Armstrong used the words “unamused” and “offended” to describe her feelings sitting in the theatre.

The Scottsboro Boys has an impressive pedigree of Broadway talent associated with it.  The music and lyrics are by John Kander and Fred Ebb (who passed away in 2004), the same team that brought us Cabaret and Chicago.  Their score is tuneful and lilting utilizing the ragtime style of the period. The book is by David Thompson. Director Susan Stroman, a Tony Award winner for The Producers, has assembled a talented cast led by Broadway legend John Cullum as the Interlocutor, also a Tony Award winner for Shenandoah and On the Twentieth Century.  Ms. Stroman has crafted a sleek and stylish production on set designer Bewulf Boritt’s minimalist set.  Forrest McClendon and Colman Domingo portray Mr. Tambo and Mr. Bones respectively.  They also play a cornucopia of cartoonish characters from a crazy white sheriff, a Jewish New York lawyer, jail guards and more with great agility.  Perhaps the most fleshed out character is Haywood Patterson, played with righteous indignation and solemnity by Joshua Henry.  He sings the haunting “Go Back Home,” the one song in the show that seems to step away from the highly styled  minstrel show and into an honest, emotional moment.

My issue is not that I found The Scottsboro Boys offensive, it’s that I found the minstrel show, or at least it’s realization here, unmoving and occasionally tedious.  I understand why the authors thought this was a good idea.  The idea of the tool used to keep the oppressed “in their place” being used as a tool for their own insurrection and triumph is a powerful one.  My issue is, much like Moralis in A Chorus Line, I felt nothing.  I didn’t find the piece moving.  I found it fairly entertaining but am not sure in hindsight that I would recommend this combination of topic and theatrical device.

I do have one question for Ms. Armstrong from the Amsterdam News, would she have objected so strenuously to the production if it had been written and directed by an African American team?  Keep in mind, one school of thought holds that Stepin Fetchit was actually subversive.  This may sound naive but I find it hard to believe that the esteemed team of Kander and Ebb would have written this piece if their intentions weren’t pure.

Additional Info

Last modified on Thursday, 11 November 2010 18:43

Media

Now Playing On Broadway

More... Cinderella, Rodgers and Hammerstein's    

Cinderella, Rodgers and Hammerstein's

Rodgers & Hammerstein classic television production premieres on Broadway this spring.  It adds songs from the duo's catalog and adds a new twist to an old tale! Songs include “In…

More...
More... Waiting for Godot    

Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s most popular play worldwide, follows two consecutive days in the lives of Vladimir (Patrick Stewart) and Estragon (Ian McKellen), who divert themselves by clowning around,…

More...
More... Mamma Mia!    

Mamma Mia!

The infectious music of ABBA provides the framework for a romp through the preparations of an unusual wedding.

More...
More... No Man's Land    

No Man's Land

In Harold Pinter’s No Man's Land we wonder if two writers, Hirst (Patrick Stewart) and Spooner (Ian McKellen) really know each other, or are they performing an elaborate charade? The…

More...
More... Once    

Once

On the streets of Dublin, an Irish musician (Guy) and a Czech immigrant (Girl) are drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week,…

More...
More... Motown: The Musical    

Motown: The Musical

Motown: The Musical is the real story of the one-of-a-kind sound that hit the airwaves in 1959 and changed our culture forever. This exhilarating show charts Motown Founder Berry Gordy's…

More...
More... Lion King    

Lion King

Julie Taymor's acclaimed staging of the Disney animated film has been hailed as a Broadway landmark. The story focuses on a young lion cub's personal journey toward his destiny as…

More...
More... Newsies    

Newsies

Set in New York City at the turn of the century, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenaged…

More...
More... Wicked    

Wicked

Wicked tells the incredible untold story of anunlikely friendship between two girls who first meet as Sorcery Students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood…

More...
More... All the Way    

All the Way

1963. An assassin’s bullet catapults Lyndon Baines Johnson into the presidency. A Shakespearean figure of towering ambition and appetite, the charismatic, conflicted Texan hurls himself into Civil Rights legislation, throwing…

More...
More... A Night with Janice Joplin    

A Night with Janice Joplin

  Like a comet that burns far too brightly to last, Janis Joplin (Mary Bridget Davies) exploded onto the music scene in 1967 for three incredible years, reigning as the…

More...
More... Jersey Boys    

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys tells the rags-to-riches story of one of the greatest successes in pop music history. Go behind the music of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, and meet four…

More...
More... A Raisin in the Sun    

A Raisin in the Sun

Set on Chicago’s South Side, A Raisin in the Sun revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee (Denzel Washington), his…

More...
More... Book of Mormon, The    

Book of Mormon, The

The Book of Mormon tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent off to spread the word in a dangerous part of Uganda. Their tale is told alongside the…

More...
More... After Midnight    

After Midnight

The evocative new musical After Midnight will take the sexy, smoky glamour of the original Jazz Age and catapult it into a whole new era of heart-pounding, mind-blowing entertainment for…

More...
More... Violet    

Violet

Two-time Tony Award® winner Sutton Foster returns to Roundabout in the highly anticipated Broadway debut of the musical Violet, following the acclaimed concert performance at City Center Encores! Off-Center. Winner…

More...
More... Chicago    

Chicago

Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, CHICAGO is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her lover after he threatens to walk out…

More...
More... Act One    

Act One

Lincoln Center Theatre presents James Lapine directing his own adaptation of Moss Hart's classic autobiography which eloquently chronicles the playwright/director's impoverished childhood and his determined struggle to escape poverty and…

More...
More... Matilda The Musical    

Matilda The Musical

MATILDA is the story of an extraordinary little girl who decides that despite a bad beginning filled with rotten parents, a terrifying school and a vicious head mistress, her story is…

More...
More... Realistic Joneses, The    

Realistic Joneses, The

What do you really know about your neighbors? Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei invite you to find out. Hailed by the New York Times as…

More...
More... Cabaret    

Cabaret

Based on Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories, the musical is the story of Cliff, an American writer who comes to Berlin at the dawn of the Hitler era. He falls…

More...
More... Phantom of the Opera, The    

Phantom of the Opera, The

Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash musicalization of the Gaston Leroux novel won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical and is now the longest-running show in Broadway history.

More...
More... Rocky    

Rocky

Somewhere in downtown Philadelphia, a down-and-out fighter named Rocky Balboa struggles to stay on his feet. But when the chance of a lifetime comes along, he takes his best shot…

More...
More... Bullets Over Broadway    

Bullets Over Broadway

Bullets Over Broadway tells the story of an aspiring young playwright (Zach Braff) newly arrived on Broadway in 1920’s New York who is forced to cast a mobster's (Vincent Pastore)…

More...
More... If / Then    

If / Then

On the verge of turning 40, Elizabeth moves back to New York City, the ultimate city of possibility, intent on a fresh start - new home, new friends, and hopes…

More...
More... Kinky Boots    

Kinky Boots

Charlie Price has suddenly inherited his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie…

More...
More... Pippin    

Pippin

Royal heir Pippin is spurred on by a mysterious group of performers to embark on a death-defying journey to find his “corner of the sky.”  The original production of PIPPIN,…

More...
More... A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder    

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

When Monty Navarro, a disinherited relative of the rich and powerful D’Ysquith clan, learns he’s ninth in line to inherit the earldom, he sets out to secure his future by,…

More...
More... Mothers and Sons    

Mothers and Sons

Tackling national themes in the most intimate of settings, Mothers and Sons is Terrence McNally at his most uncompromising, compassionate and revealing. Twenty years after her son's death, a mother…

More...
More... Rock of Ages (at Helen Hayes)    

Rock of Ages (at Helen Hayes)

In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small-town girl met a big-city rocker, and in L.A.’s most famous rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the…

More...
More... Bridges of Madison County, The    

Bridges of Madison County, The

The Bridges of Madison County takes us deep into the heart of our country and tells the very moving story of a beautiful young woman leaving Italy and suddenly living…

More...
More... Beautiful - The Carole King Musical    

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

Beautiful tells the inspiring true story of Carole King’s remarkable rise to stardom from being part of a chart-topping songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with…

More...
Frontpage Slideshow | Copyright © 2006-2012 JoomlaWorks Ltd.