Sunday, January 25, 2015

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS at The Garrick Theatre

I was in two minds whether to blog again about THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, who have changed theatrical prisons from the Young Vic to the Garrick as it's a virtual straight transfer but last night, while reading Richard Eyre's collection of essays WHAT DO I KNOW?, I read this excerpt from the writings of theatre design visionary Edward Gordon Craig:

The Art of the Theatre is neither acting nor the play, it is not scene nor dance, but it consists of all the elements of which these things are composed: action, which is the very spirit of acting; words, which are the body of the play; line and colour, which are the very heart of the scene; rhythm, which is the very essence of the dance.

After reading that I thought that the notoriously mercurial Craig would go crazy at THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS as that quote describes Susan Stroman's production.

Since I saw THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS at the Young Vic in 2013 - do the clicky for my blog (shared with The Jersey Boys) here - the show won both the Critics Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and was also nominated for 6 Olivier Awards.  It is great that the show is getting a second bite of the London cherry and there have been some replacements in an already exceptional cast.

The most obvious replacement is Brandon Victor Dixon as Haywood Paterson, the nominal leader of the nine teenage black boys wrongly accused of the rape of two white girls in Scottsboro, Alabama.  Dixon originated the role in 2010 and he was excellent, burning with a smouldering sense of his innocence.

For 21 years the Scottsboro Boys faced re-trial after re-trial, they saw execution dates came and go and heard one of their accusers recant her testimony only to still be judged guilty, until finally - long after the media had moved on - they were paroled in drips and drabs.  Haywood had managed to escape in 1948 but was re-captured in 1950 after a bar brawl which saw him sentenced for manslaughter.  He died in prison two years later.  82 years after that Spring day when they had been arrested, the nine Scottsboro Boys were finally exonerated by Alabama's governor.

John Kander & Fred Ebb's score bounces off the stage with it's mixture of "teeth, tits and tonsils" showstoppers and heartbreaking ballads but there is no padding, each song moves the action forward, illuminating the characters and the situation and also sounds sensational under Phil Cornwell's musical direction.

Susan Stroman's tight direction and exhilarating choreography still thrills, Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon are still shining as the minstrel show comics Mr. Tambo and Mr Bones, James T. Lane is still stopping the show as the recanting accuser with "Never Too Late Ruby Bates" and the inventiveness and daring of staging it through the medium of a minstrel show still works marvellously well.

The show is on until 21st February... see it!

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