We were rather surprised when we found out about this Broadway show’s set up: a new show by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, directed (and choreographed) by Susan Stroman – based on a true story of 9 black boys who were allegedly guilty of raping two white women on a train in Alabama in 1931: The Scottsboro Boys!?
I had not heard about this case of apparent injustice before and when I read up about it, I could not possibly imagine how you would come up with an idea for a Broadway show about the Scottsboro boys. And then Kander and Ebb did? As their final collaboration before Ebb passed away in 2004?
The Scottsboro Boys derserved more success
Well, we saw a preview back in 2010 and the show simply blew me away. The story itself could not be more horrific: 9 boys were wrongly convicted of rape and suffered from a whole series of legal nightmares (it’s a long story, you can read up on The Scottsboro Boys on Wikipedia or watch a nine part feature on YouTube. There is also quite some info on the show’s website). The show tells the story of The Scottsboro Boys as a minstrel show. Watching it, I found myself a few times laughing about the way things were told on stage and then realizing how terrible things were for those boys – leaving me in great discomfort and certainly thinking about what happened to those boys for a long time. Also, the cast featured an amazingly talented ENSEMBLE in the best possible meaning of the word: a great TEAM! And that great team was performing a great production which managed to tell the story of The Scottsboro Boys in a most compelling way with dark moments, fun moments (which often lets you have a lump in your throat) and storytelling that also makes great use of props and set.
The show did not last very long on Broadway (49 performances after previews), and you could name a few reasons for that and speculate even more…also why the show did not win any Tony awards despite 12 nominations – but certainly not the show itself or its performers. It is great to see that musical theatre these days has more to offer than only happy-chappy, all-smiling chart compilations. Recently, a limited run in the Young Vic in London’s West End has been announced, which is exciting news! Even more recently, it looks like The Scottsboro Boys may be pardoned by The Alabama Legislatur having been falsely accused more than eight decades ago.
Please enjoy a few images of the original Broadway cast of The Scottsboro Boys in the video – but if you can, go and watch the show itself!