Monday, November 1, 2010

Scottsboro Boys Opens on Broadway

The Scottsboro Boys, among the last original musicals penned by the composing team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, opened last night at the Lyceum Theater after a stint at the Vinyard Theater last spring.  The current Broadway transfer has received some mixed-to-positive reviews, with many critics loving it and some not being sure what to make of it.  The show tells the story of a group of young black men falsely accused of raping two white women in 1930s Alabama, but is framed as a minstrel show with a score of mostly ragtime music.

Though some reviewers were alienated by the minstrel style of the show, not knowing whether to be entertained or shocked, everyone agreed that the production was wonderful (even if a bit monotonous, according to some).  Susan Stroman's direction and choreography were praised across the board, particularly for the economy of staging -- the set apparantely consists of only a few chairs and a proscenium.  My current thinking is that Stroman has set herself up for another directing Tony nomination and likely another for choreography, as well as leading her designers to nominations, too.

The score received some mixed reviews, as well.  Some think of it as being on par with other classic Kander & Ebb scores like Cabaret or Chicago.  Others found the score clever but uninspired.  All agreed, though, that the song "Go Back Home" would soon become a standard of cabaret acts across the country.  It is unclear whether this score will be Tony-nominated.  On the one hand, the score appears in a new, heavily advertised musical that received lots of praise (think A Chorus Line, Billy Elliot, Shrek, and the list goes on).  Also, the fact that it was composed by the team of Kander and Ebb, among the more beloved composing teams still putting out new works and that Fred Ebb died in 2004, will lend this score a big hand come May when the nominations will be announced.  However, the mixed reception the score got may bump it down the list too far given other new musicals in the market this coming year, such as Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, David Yazbeck's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Spiderman, Catch Me If You Can, and Frank Wildhorn's Wonderland: A New Alice.

Lastly, Joshua Henry, Colman Domingo, and Forrest McClendon received strong praise from many of the critics whose reviews I read.  It is not clear how these men will be categorized in terms of leading versus supporting roles at the Tonys in May, but I am sure that, depending on their categorization and the competition that results, at least one or two of them will be nominated for this show.

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