Another Off-Broadway transfer, The Scottsboro Boys, has moved to Broadway (after a quick fix-up out of town). The show is stronger than ever and critics are raving about the choreography, score, story and the amazing turn by newcomer Joshua Henry. The Scottsboro Boys‘ minstrel show treatment of very dark subject matter has critics split – some find the pairing genius and while others find the minstrel-show set up lessens the impact or is just outright smug.
Here’s what the major publications thought:
New York Post
A boldly stylized, defiantly razzle-dazzle look at true events…The story has a resounding emotional charge, but we also clearly see the cruel, almost cartoonish absurdity of it all…As grim as its subject is, the show is vibrantly alive…On the surface, The Scottsboro Boys is a hard sell in a Times Square dominated by escapist fluff…Yet this is also a thrillingly inventive and entertaining night at the theater. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be moved. What could be more Broadway than that? Read the full review
Arguably the finest of last season’s new musicals when it appeared at the Vineyard in March…[it’s now] stronger, tighter and even more impactful…Director-choreographer Stroman, working on a far simpler scale than usual, delivers her most creative and effective work in years, and Kander’s music sounds great…Actors appear to be relatively cramped for space, resulting in a suitably claustrophobic feel and a jolt in voltage that helps account for the increased power of Scottsboro in its new home on Broadway. Read the full review
Nestled snugly into the Lyceum Theatre, whose musty period interior enhances the show in ways the rather antiseptic Vineyard Theatre never could, this look at a monstrous, racially motivated miscarriage of justice in the Depression-era South, staged in the form of a minstrel show, packs quite a punch. It’s a satisfying finale for the legendary songwriting team…Thanks to some small but smart focusing, clarifying, and tightening of the book and director-choreographer Susan Stroman’s exemplary staging, the show now makes it clear that its purpose is not to tell the personal stories of these men. The musical is about what happened to them, and how that changed America…Here’s to the creative team for insisting on delivering the show it wanted. The Scottsboro Boys sets a high bar for Broadway musicals this season. Read the full review
The New York Times
Mr. Kander and Mr. Ebb have written a zesty if not top-tier score, but the pleasures of a jaunty ragtime melody and a clever lyric are hard to savor when they are presented in such an unavoidably grim context…Although the show’s momentum is hampered by both its essential singularity of tone and the tortuous history of the court cases, the production remains dynamic, thanks in no small part to the dauntless energy of the terrific cast, all fine singers and dancers. But the musical never really resolves the tension between its impulse to entertain us with hoary jokes and quivering tambourines and the desire to render the harsh morals of its story with earnest insistence. Read the full review
Wall Street Journal
It is impossible not to be thrilled by the electrifying craftsmanship…The problem is that all this formidable talent has been enlisted in the service of a musical so smug that I could scarcely bear to sit and watch it…I suppose there are places in America where such a show might still jolt its viewers, but to see The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway is to witness a nightly act of collective self-congratulation in which the right-thinking members of the audience preen themselves complacently at the thought of their own enlightenment…A musical that slathers this terrible tale in a thick coat of musical-comedy frosting that has been spiked with cheap, elephantine irony. I can’t imagine a nastier-tasting recipe. Read the full review
Have you seen the show? What did you think?