The cast and crew have made their way from the Young Vic to the Garrick Theatre, London, for an extended run of their production of The Scottsboro Boys.
As the show starts, the cast come to the stage from the back of the theatre, running through the aisles, smiling, laughing, dancing. This immediately brings the audience into the story, it’s more than just watching the motion onstage.
Set in 1931, nine boys ride the railway in Alabama. A fight breaks out, the train stops in Scottsboro where the boys are accused of gang raping two white women. This may be an all singing all dancing production but it tackles the racial issues of the time head on.
The Scottsboro Boys tells the true story of how the nine were sentenced to death and of the court cases to prove their innocence. It also cleverly shows how what the nine went through helped changed the face of American and the world forever through the Civil Rights movement.
However serious the issues, there is an incredible amount of oneliners throughout the performance. There is one one female actor onstage throughout. The two ladies, the accusers, are fantastically portrayed by James T Lane and Dex Lee. As the story progresses, everything is held together by Mr Tambo, (Forrest McClendon) and Mr Bones, played by Olivier nominated Colman Domingo. Dress in over the top circus/clown attire the pair provide the humour and add commentary to the proceedings.
The set design is minimal but very effective. A mountain of chairs are transformed into a train, a jail cell, a court room, solitary confinement. This gives the dialogue, the music, the dancing, the time and space to shine. The cast of the show need to be highly commended, the work rate even in the first ten minutes is phenomonal, they just don’t stop singing, dancing, moving. Despite the sweat running down their faces, these guys have to be the fittest in London.
This is the last musical to be written by Kander and Ebb and it boasts some fantastic music moments but it’s not an easy watch. At times it is very frustrating. But that’s nothing to do with the direction, the staging, the acting, it’s to do how we have treated each other on this planet. As a white member of the audience, your scribe felt guilty and ashamed at times. Saying that, this is a definite must see. Educational and entertaining.