This has been a good year for musicals, and it is more or less coming to an end with this little treat currently running at the Young Vic in London.
It is the last musical penned by John Kander and Fred Ebb (best known for Cabaret and Chicago). And like much of their work it takes an unusual theme and story. It is based on the true-life tale of nine black teenagers sentenced to death in Alabama in 1931 on the made-up charge of raping two white women on a train. Nine boys take a train journey in search of a new life ( good opportunity for songs!); but by the end of their journey, their lives would be changed forever. And so would American society as their trial would divide a nation. Widely reported and discussed for over half a century, it is only this month (November 2013!) that all the boys have been finally been pardoned! A long history informs this musical.It is the story of racial hatred in the states; and nine young men, desperate to prove to the world that they mattered.
The controversies lie in that the musical is done as a Minstrel Show (this is a Kander and Ebb hallmark: recall the night club in Cabaret; the court room in Chicago, the rink in The Rink, ). This means the nine brilliant performers who play the boys also double up as the white girls and the white racists! The whole production walks a fine edge; and it works gloriously The singing and dancing is meticulously exuberant: emotions are charged , tears flowed. It is not a great musical – the score is not their best – but is is a very good one. In New York , it was nominated for a remarkable 12 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Written by David Thompson and director/choreographer Susan Stroman it is getting its first outing in London nine years after Ebb’s death. It has had rave reviews: you can find one at:http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/oct/30/the-scottsboro-boys-review
I am often asked what I do in my retirement and I answer:’ I go to see musicals!’ There have been many great musicals this year and I guess In have seen about 25 (Mormon was NOT one of them!) But here is one that should not be missed. It is only running for a short while, and it may even by now be sold out.