Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Scottsboro Boys - review


IN 1931 nine black teenagers boarded a train in Scottsboro, Alabama, in search of a new life. By the end of their journey, their lives – and those of every American – would be changed forever.
The boys were falsely accused of raping two white girls and were arrested, tried and found guilty. In fact over the years, they were tried numerous times and each time the guilty verdict was returned - despite one of the girls retracting her statement and admitting she lied.
Their story, which deeply divided America, had a powerful effect on American history and the American Civil Rights Movement and is now widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice.
And although this is a distressing and disturbing story that does nothing for the reputation of the American South, it provided the inspiration for Scottsboro Boys, a musical by award-winning composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb in 2010.
A production is now on at the Young Vic and a more powerful, uplifting and emotionally charged show you would be hard pushed to find.
Featuring five of the original Broadway cast, the acting, singing and dancing is terrific - in particular that of Kyle Scatliffe as Haywood Patterson, the most outspoken of the teenagers.
And although there is a slight unease at tapping ones foot along to songs about being electrocuted in the electric chair and lynchings the show is uplifting in its message about humanity and hope.
The direction is strong, the musical numbers tug at the heartstrings and the partnership of Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon as Mr Bones and Mr Tambo and a host of other characters is an inspiration.
And despite it being a bladder busting 105 minutes without an interval this is a quite simply an extraordinary show that should not be missed.

The Scottsboro Boys is on at the Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo until December 21.

Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7922 2922.

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