First Preview Tonight: “The Scottsboro Boys”

I’ll be in the audience at the Lyceum Theatre tonight for the first Broadway preview of The Scottsboro Boys, Kander and Ebb’s final musical. (Many thanks to my buddy Jesse from Stage Rush). It’s a risk for a musical: telling the story of a group of young black men falsely convicted of the rape of two white women in 1931. The show, which was produced off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre last season, tells this harrowing story of racial injustice with an ironic, fascinating concept: as a minstrel show. Taking this archaic, racist antedecent of burlesque, the creative team uses it to comment on our nation’s racial history. The cast is predominantly African American, with one white man (two-time Tony winner John Cullum headlines as the Interlocutor).

Word of mouth from off-Broadway and from it summer run at the Guthrie Theatre has been tremendous. Even reviews that were less than positive have fueled my interest in the show. When I read the NY Times review of the off-Broadway run, my reaction was “This show sounds incredible.” I’ve been greatly excited by the show’s audacity and compelled by the story being told. And given Kander and Ebb’s ability to tackle brave and daring ideas with Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman, a daring, cutting edge musical like Scottsboro is an outstanding swan song (though I hope someone brings The Visit to NY).

David Thompson supplied the book, Susan Stroman the direction and choreography. The cast features Joshua Henry, who is replacing Brandon Victor Dixon as Haywood Patterson (Dixon left to star in the upcoming Ray Charles musical). The original cast album comes out on Tuesday, which represents the off-Broadway version of the show. It’s one to have: the score is beautiful, bold and brilliant with memorable songs and some haunting arrangements. Plus, there’s a bonus track of the late Fred Ebb singing “Go Back Home,” the show’s standout ballad.

This is a brief clip of the cast (with David Anthony Brinkley as the Interlocutor) performing the opening number “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” from the summer run at the Guthrie :


Writer and dancer Emily Frankel, who blogs at Em’s Talkery, is married to John Cullum. They get together once a week to film a small vlog for AIR Broadway casting and her site. In this particular entry, they talk about Cullum’s rehearsal process and preparation for the Broadway run:


Finally, here is a clip of Brandon Victor Dixon on Theatre Talk singing the “Go Back Home” which has haunted me since I first heard it: