The Scottsboro Boys?

Gizmo6
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The Scottsboro Boys?#1
Posted: 11/17/18 at 6:09pm

What happened with The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway?

It only ran for two months and received 12 Tony Nominations but failed to pick up a single one.

I saw it in the West End in 2014 and it was outstanding yet it failed to pick up an Olivier Award.

From there opening bangs of the drums my body was rocked to the core.

Is it too challenging for audiences? For voters?

The audiences loved it when I was there but there is a difference between entertainment and being activated at the theatre. Was the audience just passive spectators?

I love the concept, the score, the staging and importantly the story that needs to be told.

It had a good run in the West End but Broadway seems to have been a disaster.

What was the reception at the time?

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Call_me_jorge
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The Scottsboro Boys?#2
Posted: 11/17/18 at 6:17pm

If I recall the show received a lot of backlash and even had protesters for using Minstrel as the story telling style.

??Jack-o-lanterns are just pumpkins who majored in musical theatre??
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Call_me_jorge
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The Scottsboro Boys?#3
Posted: 11/17/18 at 6:17pm

Edit: Double Post

??Jack-o-lanterns are just pumpkins who majored in musical theatre??
Updated On: 11/17/18 at 06:17 PM
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The Scottsboro Boys?#4
Posted: 11/17/18 at 7:26pm

"On November 6, 2010, about thirty people gathered outside the Lyceum Theatre to protest The Scottsboro Boys, arguing that "the use of minstrelsy and blackface were racist."  Stroman said she was disappointed that the protesters, who "probably had not seen the musical," had "misunderstood that the creators were not celebrating the minstrel tradition but rather using it to reveal the evils of the system." Weissler said the minstrel show is "not meant to demean or degrade anybody," but rather that it "houses the story we’re trying to tell."

I remember laughing at how dumb those protesters were because they clearly never saw the show.  I saw it on Broadway, London, and at The Signature this past summer and it has and always will be absolutely brilliant. Shows about poor black people typically don't win awards though. I think it is too complex for a lot of theater-goers, and it's tough subject matter. That was an ugly part of our history, and to revisit that is difficult for the masses. I'm glad there are two albums, and so happy it's living on all over the world in regional theaters.  

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The Scottsboro Boys?#5
Posted: 11/17/18 at 9:36pm
In 2017, it received - in the eyes of the Tribune, anyway - a sub par Chicago production that came and went with no fanfare whatsoever.
I, however, found it to be an excellent mounting.
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The Scottsboro Boys?#6
Posted: 11/17/18 at 10:52pm

this like most Kander and Ebb shows was way too ahead of its time, when the revival opens in like 10 years it will be a huge smash 

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The Scottsboro Boys?#7
Posted: 11/18/18 at 12:16am

I loved this show with every fiber of my being. 

 

It MIGHT have done better at the Tony's had it lasted longer. Voters (v  nominators) didn't have a chance.

 

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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The Scottsboro Boys?#8
Posted: 11/18/18 at 12:33am

I can't remember if this has been posted before, but for those who haven't had the opportunity to see a production, the show's libretto is available legally here: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2017/02/23/musical-month-scottsboro-boys

(That series also provides a copy of the 1921 Shuffle Along libretto, among others.)

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The Scottsboro Boys?#9
Posted: 11/18/18 at 12:43am
It had a terrible marketing campaign that didnít even put Kander & Ebb above the title. They didnít do enough publicity and they had a smear campaign against them for all the wrong reasons... this needs a revival with a big star and a flashy staging!

I think the thing missing from the original was flashiness. It needed more razzle dazzle. The material is so dark that it needs some over the top ridiculousness.
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The Scottsboro Boys?#10
Posted: 11/18/18 at 2:33am

Too "challenging"?! Who these days is challenged by controversial claims such as "racism is bad", "perjury is bad", "the justice system is just as corrupt as the 'officers of the court' who run it"?

I truly love the score; it may be K&E's best. But the show as a whole is a grab at low-hanging fruit.

As others have noted even the use of minstrelsy was only controversial if one didn't bother to see the show.

And as for being more popular 10 years from now, the show is going to have to wait until people have forgotten not only the Scottsboro Boys themselves, but all the dangers of Jim Crow. I doubt 10 years will be enough.

Gizmo6
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The Scottsboro Boys?#11
Posted: 11/18/18 at 4:25am

GavestonPS said: "Too "challenging"?! Who these days is challenged by controversial claims such as "racism is bad", "perjury is bad", "the justice system is just as corrupt as the 'officers of the court' who run it"?

I truly love the score; it may be K&E's best. But the show as a whole is a grab atlow-hanging fruit.

As others have noted even the use of minstrelsy was only controversial if one didn't bother to see the show.

And as for being more popular 10 years from now, the show is going to have to wait until people have forgotten not only the Scottsboro Boys themselves, but all the dangers of Jim Crow. I doubt 10 years will be enough.
"

I think you missed the whole point of the show! It made the audience complicit in the racism! The audiences are the ones who paid and sat through the Minstrel Show. This is what I mean by too challenging. You may be used to passive naturalistic theatre but this was far from because it made the audience confront their inherent racism, by breaking the fourth wall and to paraphrase Shakespeare by holding a mirror up to the audience. 

People don’t want to confront their inherent racism. ‘Everyone’s a little raciat’ As the song goes. 

I don’t understand the ‘low hanging fruit’ comment, if you care to elaborate? 

 

 

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The Scottsboro Boys?#12
Posted: 11/18/18 at 7:00am

GavestonPS said: "Too "challenging"?! Who these days is challenged by controversial claims such as "racism is bad", "perjury is bad", "the justice system is just as corrupt as the 'officers of the court' who run it"?

I truly love the score; it may be K&E's best. But the show as a whole is a grab atlow-hanging fruit.

As others have noted even the use of minstrelsy was only controversial if one didn't bother to see the show.

And as for being more popular 10 years from now, the show is going to have to wait until people have forgotten not only the Scottsboro Boys themselves, but all the dangers of Jim Crow. I doubt 10 years will be enough.
"

And recent events and the political climate have shown us that there are lots of folks that still haven't learned this .

I'll be honest...I had never heard of the Scottsboro Boys before this, so nothing bad on that front, either. 

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Updated On: 11/18/18 at 07:00 AM
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The Scottsboro Boys?#13
Posted: 11/18/18 at 7:08am

But to GavestonPS's point I really doubt most audiences, especially the ones that they got through the door were truly challenged the way they might have been watching something like "Blackbird" - which introduces genuinely controversial and unusual ideas. The main problem with the Scottsboro Boys is that no one cared about it. I found it to be very moving and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen it on Broadway, but not many people seemed to care about it enough. 

"Itís the fractured quality in [Bernadette Peters'] singing voice and line readings that puts across the character as someone for whom resentment is sliding into madness." - NYtimes on Follies (2011).
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The Scottsboro Boys?#14
Posted: 11/18/18 at 7:14am

qolbinau said: "But toGavestonPS's point I really doubt most audiences, especially the ones that they got through the door were truly challenged the way they might have been watching something like "Blackbird" - which introduces genuinely controversial and unusual ideas. The main problem with the Scottsboro Boys is that no one cared about it. I found it to be very moving and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen it on Broadway, but not many people seemed to care about it enough."

Sadly, not even the producers.  That they gave up on it so fast,  broke my heart. They could have used the minor skirmish of protest to their advantage but they ran away from it, scared .

 

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Gizmo6
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The Scottsboro Boys?#15
Posted: 11/18/18 at 8:47am

qolbinau said: "But toGavestonPS's point I really doubt most audiences, especially the ones that they got through the door were truly challenged the way they might have been watching something like "Blackbird" - which introduces genuinely controversial and unusual ideas. The main problem with the Scottsboro Boys is that no one cared about it. I found it to be very moving and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen it on Broadway, but not many people seemed to care about it enough."

That’s heartbreaking really. From the true story to the artistic merit. We see so many shows that really should never see the light of day and one comes along and just gets swept aside. 

 

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The Scottsboro Boys?#16
Posted: 11/18/18 at 4:56pm
I love the score! I actually love a lot of the show! But the authors had to subsume the actual concept that would bring its ideas to the forefront. No one is ready (or will be ready for a long time) to have the show done by white men in black face. But by having actual black men do a Minstrel Show whitewashes, excuse me, and dilutes (and confuses) the horrors of this type of presentational racism. And somewhat (I would bet) lessens the shows impact. I'm actually surprised some European Director in a country less hung up about race hasn't attempted to do the show as an actual historic-type Minstrel Show.
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The Scottsboro Boys?#17
Posted: 11/18/18 at 5:17pm
Owen, you clearly have not seen the show. Black performers did perform in blackface, in minstrel shows. This production was fairly historically accurate. To have white men in blackface would dillute the point of the show actually. Also, our country isn't "hung up on race." We just care about not being flat out racist.

As a PoC, this production was extraordinary, painful, tragic, and cringey in all the best possible ways. It hurt me to watch. By having a group of black men tell such a tragic story in such a happy and cheerful way in the form of a minstrel show was stomach turning. With the presence of John Cullum, it felt like they were being forced to perform this show and every little thing said hurt them to say. They almost felt like prisoners being forced to sing and dance in a minstrel show. If you were to cast white actors, it would lose all of that and it would be deeply problematic in a number of other ways.

I'd love to see this come back sometime. I could see George C. Wolfe doing incredible work on this.
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The Scottsboro Boys?#18
Posted: 11/18/18 at 7:04pm

Fortunately, the Broadway production did lead to a superb touring production that came to the Ahmanson in LA a couple years later, featuring much of the Broadway cast and Hal Linden in the John Cullum role. We felt privileged to get to see the piece that night. It's what we hope for every time we go to the theater. 

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The Scottsboro Boys?#19
Posted: 11/18/18 at 7:38pm

GeorgeandDot said: "Owen, you clearly have not seen the show. Black performers did perform in blackface, in minstrel shows. This production was fairly historically accurate. To have white men in blackface would dillute the point of the show actually. Also, our country isn't "hung up on race." We just care about not being flat out racist.

As a PoC, this production was extraordinary, painful, tragic, and cringey in all the best possible ways. It hurt me to watch. By having a group of black men tell such a tragic story in such a happy and cheerful way in the form of a minstrel show was stomach turning. With the presence of John Cullum, it felt like they were being forced to perform this show and every little thing said hurt them to say. They almost felt like prisoners being forced to sing and dance in a minstrel show. If you were to cast white actors, it would lose all of that and it would be deeply problematic in a number of other ways.

I'd love to see this come back sometime. I could see George C. Wolfe doing incredible work on this.
"

Thank you GeorgeandDot, eloquently put. 

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The Scottsboro Boys?#20
Posted: 11/18/18 at 8:16pm

  "The main problem with the Scottsboro Boys is that no one cared about it."

That's not at all true.  People on this board have shown a lot of love and appreciation for it, and it had a very successful run in London, and continues to be performed in regional theaters around the United States.  

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The Scottsboro Boys?#21
Posted: 11/19/18 at 12:28pm

I was blown away at the Vineyard and then again at the Guthrie. This was truly one of the best shows I've ever seen. However, it is a very confrontational piece and does challenge the audience. The Interlocutor could be easily stunt (or star) cast. The "boys" really have epic roles with so much doubling that it might be harder to find celebrities for those. However, Corbin Bleu might really knock this out of the park!

A revival would be great and timely, but it might be a bit too confrontational for audience members to appreciate just yet.

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The Scottsboro Boys?#22
Posted: 11/19/18 at 7:24pm

Gizmo6 said: "GavestonPS said: "Too "challenging"?! Who these days is challenged by controversial claims such as "racism is bad", "perjury is bad", "the justice system is just as corrupt as the 'officers of the court' who run it"?

I truly love the score; it may be K&E's best. But the show as a whole is a grab atlow-hanging fruit.

As others have noted even the use of minstrelsy was only controversial if one didn't bother to see the show.

And as for being more popular 10 years from now, the show is going to have to wait until people have forgotten not only the Scottsboro Boys themselves, but all the dangers of Jim Crow. I doubt 10 years will be enough.
"

I think you missed the whole point of the show! It made the audience complicit in the racism! The audiences are the ones who paid and sat through the Minstrel Show. This is what I mean by too challenging. You may be used to passive naturalistic theatre but this was far from because it made the audience confront their inherent racism, by breaking the fourth wall and to paraphraseShakespeare by holding a mirror up to the audience.

People don’t want to confront their inherent racism. ?Everyone’s a little raciat’ As the song goes.

I don’t understand the?low hanging fruit’ comment, if you care to elaborate?




"

I saw my first musical more than a half-century ago, and taught avant garde and protest theater (among other forms) for years. My first Broadway shows were COMPANY and FOLLIES, so, no, I am not mostly "used to passive naturalistic theater" (except to the extent we all are because the style dominates film and TV).

The phrase "to pick low-hanging fruit" means to avoid the hard work of engaging an audience in a truly controversial way. Not even the KKK or neo-Nazis advocate that witnesses against black defendants should commit purgery. There is no controversy about the Scottsboro Boys at this point in time: they were innocent; the witnesses lied; it took far too long for the justice system to correct its mistakes, to the limited extent it did.

How, exactly, does this make me complicit in racism? Traditional minstrelsy is NO LONGER the only form of entertainment open to black performers. I didn't force anyone to take part in the production. I didn't even disagree or hate the show. I was just bored with the dramatization of an event on which we all should (and mostly do) agree.

If you want to make a white audience confront its own racism, then you are going to have to do something that addresses the racism that audience enacts, not retreat to the comparative safety of historical distance. I notice a number of people paraphrasing Brecht in this thread, so let me add that he had strong words about productions that put their themes and action in the remote past, allowing the audience (as does THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS) to comfort themselves  with the idea that what they are seeing doesn't happen any more.

The railroading of African-Americans into incarceration is still a great problem, but in a very different form nowadays. A play that really wanted to challenge us would address its themes in ways that remain common today.

Now if POC found the play moving, that's fine with me (not that they need my approval, of course). That makes BOYS a sort of pageant of grievance; I have no complaint with those who found it a satisfying experience on that ground. But that's something very different from an effective play, musical or otherwise.

Updated On: 11/19/18 at 07:24 PM
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The Scottsboro Boys?#23
Posted: 11/19/18 at 10:24pm
I saw the show on Broadway and I saw this show in the West End. And though you are correct, that some African Americans did participate in minstrel shows, the racism of black face was white men in black face.
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The Scottsboro Boys?#24
Posted: 11/19/18 at 10:26pm

And by hung up and race, I meant the politically correct ethos that had protesters outside of the original production. And the absolute stupidity behind the whole Great Comet mess.

Updated On: 11/19/18 at 10:26 PM
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The Scottsboro Boys?#25
Posted: 11/20/18 at 3:04am

One of the truly great musicals of my (long) lifetime. 

This is the last show, Trump voting middle Americans visitors are going want to see.

Broadway survives, on out of towners.