BWW Reviews: THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, The Young Vic, November 1 2013
Kander and Ebb have an unrivalled ability to tackle a dark subject without making it maudlin. The Scottsboro Boys, one of final collaborations of this prolific pair, is no exception. Taking the form of a minstrel show, The Scottsboro Boys tells the shameful story of nine boys arrested from a train in Alabama and accused and convicted of a crime they didn't commit.
The bittersweet show opens in a cacophony of sound from all corners of the theatre and the intensity remains high throughout. The company take their seats on the chairs that will soon be transformed into box cars and prisons cells in Beowilf Boritt's superb set. Ken Billington's creative lighting really combines well with the design with subtle use of shadow extending the minimalist set. Director Susan Stroman's one-act show canters along from train, to prison to trial and never lags, despite a nearly two hour runningtime.
And Kander and Ebb's enchanting and clever music is also used to great effect. Each song taking surprising twists and turns pairing superbly with Stroman's choreography.
And what a company: a mixture of some of the original Broadway cast combined with some incredible British talent. Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon are superb as Mr Bones and Mr Tambo and a whole host of nasty supporting characters. Clinton Roane's Roy also stands out. His slightness contrasts well with Kyle Scatliffe's huge presence as Haywood Patterson. They have great chemistry together, and Roane brings a real sensitivity to his performance as he teaches the older boy to write.
Julian Glover also impresses as the Interlocutor, our master of ceremonies and the one Caucasian cast member, helping to emphasise the shocking bigotry suffered by so many. That it's delivered in such a smooth southern drawl makes it all the more potent, his constant calls for a celebratory cakewalk and a happy ending, oblivious to the action unfolding in front of him.
Somehow, despite 12 Tony nominations, The Scottsboro Boys failed to win a single award: a small wrong compared to the many on display on stage, but at least one will hopefully be put right when the UK awards season comes around.
The curtain call brought the audience to a well-deserved standing ovation. This is Kander and Ebb's final production - Ebb sadly passed away in 2004, during its development - and what a swan song it is.