December 4, 2010

Unforgettable Boys






I've always been intrigued about this show ever since I heard it was playing down at the Vineyard Theatre. I think it was because of the subject matter and because I've always had an affinity to the music of Kander and Ebb. Alas, I didn't get a chance to see it when it was playing Off-Broadway. I even toyed with the idea of driving up to Minneapolis when it was playing at the Guthrie Theatre. This past Thanksgiving weekend, I finally got to see The Scottsboro Boys at the Lyceum Theatre in NYC.

The Scottsboro Boys is a forgotten true story of 9 black youths falsely accused of rape in 1930's Alabama. As Lani has mentioned in her post (click here), the show is presented in minstrel style which has been a focus of protest from a group of people (read about my post about the protest here). I can see why they would protest the show but I don't think these protesters have even seen it. In the past, minstrelsy is performed by white men in blackface and portray black people as buffoons. It is not the case in Scottsboro Boys. Here, minstrelsy is used as a story telling device to lampoon the sham trials that these boys were subjected to. It's a great device and as an audience member I found myself being constantly nudged, prodded and challenged. One particular piece (which Lani has also mentioned) was the electrocution scene in which the cast performed this intricate tap number while singing lyrics about electrocution! I was constantly torn between great admiration and enjoyment of the great hoofing while at the same time in horror and shock hearing the lyrics. Should I clap at the end or not, was my dilemma. It's an uncomfortable feeling that will stay with me for a while.

I have to confess that I did enjoy the Kander and Ebb music. And that I am still riddled with guilt that I did enjoy it. And I do have to add that the whole cast is tremendously talented. Josh Henry as Haywood Patterson is so moving. Jeremy Gumbs as the young Eugene Williams has the voice of an angel. I also have to point out the fast feet and grace of Kendrick Jones. He's such a great hoofer that my eyes are always drawn to him during the dance numbers.

Sadly, it's been recently announced that The Scottsboro Boys is closing on December 12. It's a pity that a show with a tremendous message, talented cast plus universally lauded by critics and theatre fans will close prematurely. For me, good theatre is suppose to provoke, move and change you. This is great theatre. Don't miss it!

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