Review Roundup: THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS at the Young Vic
The Young Vic and Catherine Schreiber opened the UK premiere of The Scottsboro Boys, directed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman. The production stars original Broadway cast members Colman Domingo, who reprises his Tony Award nominated role of Mr. Bones, and Forrest McClendon, who plays Mr. Tambo. Also in the Young Vic cast fresh from Broadway are Christian Dante-White (Charles Weems) and Clinton Roane (Roy Wright).
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney of whatsonstage.com writes: The all-black cast - with Julian Glover the sole white actor cheerfully playing all the authority figures as a sort of creepy emcee in a Colonel Sanders white suit and topper - includes five from the Broadway show, now joined by the extraordinary Kyle Scatliffe as Haywood Patterson, the main man, who escaped from prison in 1948, was re-arrested after a bar room brawl and convicted once again on an unrelated charge of manslaughter; he died of cancer in 1952.
Michael Billington of the Guardian writes: One of theatre's most potent weapons is an ironic contrast between form and content. It was used by Joan Littlewood in Oh, What A Lovely War and, more recently, by Stephen Sondheim in Assassins. It is also the chief instrument of this very fine US musical, with music and lyrics by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, that deploys a minstrel show format to expose the racist bigotry that pervaded the case of The Scottsboro Boys.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph writes: In a way, one can see why. The production, with a book by David Thompson, is uncomfortable, edgy and more than a little self-righteous. But is also passionate, original, and at times deeply moving.... The superb Susan Stroman, best known for her knockout staging ofMel Brooks's The Producers, is once again on board as director and choreographer, and so too are several members of the original Broadway cast.
Paul Taylor of the Independent writes: At first, the contrast between the manic ingratiating verve of their tambourine-bashing routines and the horrifying reality of their situation emphasises the powerlessness of the boys. A nightmare about the electric chair is presented as a virtuosic tap sequence. But gradually, in their desperation, the youths start to sabotage the stereotyping formats and to disobey the lone white figure of the MC (Julian Glover in an Uncle Sam top hat). "How those sights and sounds/Come back to me/Like my daddy hanging from the tree," they sweetly harmonise in a demure litany of the delights of the South.
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail says: The staging has many of the touches of a minstrel show, with a big swirly sign in lights, a narrator/interlocutor (played by the avuncular Julian Glover), tap dancing, ragtime music, a semi-circle of chairs, shiny smiles and the cake walk... To appreciate such things, mind you, you need to know about them in the first place. How many musical-goers in Britain do? There is quite a lot of shouting, too.