By George Maguire
The Scottsboro Boys retells the story of nine young black men who on March 25, 1931 while on a freight train in Alabama were accused by two white women of rape and were subsequently arrested. These innocent men would serve collectively over 100 years of imprisonment with numerous retrials and continued electric chair verdicts.
The ACLU (cofounded by Helen Keller) and the American Communist Party fought valiantly for their acquittal.
The Scottsboro Boys is a minstrel musical masterpiece by 42nd Street Moon Theater Company that should be applauded for presenting this challenging and visionary musical. Receiving a rousing opening- night standing ovation, the play is beautifully cast with thirteen actors/singers – twelve of them African American, and one white interlocutor (wonderfully played by gifted Michael Patrick Gaffney) who introduces us into the minstrel show theatricality demanded by the material.
…42nd Street Moon has found a niche of excellence in their presentation…
The remarkable musical, the last full collaboration of John Kander and Fred Ebb, whose work always seemed to push the boundaries of ingenious theatricality (Chicago, Cabaret, etc.) was first presented off-Broadway in 2010, six years after Fred Ebb’s death. Each actor in the Moon production brings an indelible font of the past to the proceedings.
The minstrel show presentation enlivened by Anthony Rollins-Mullens as Mr. Tambo and Albert Hodge as Mr. Bones brings us pointedly into the world of black entertainers as they were perceived by a white audience at the time.
(On a personal note, I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and my father was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization. I remember vividly being introduced to minstrel shows presented with the knights in blackface as they entertained white family audiences. Frightening and painful to recall now in light of a five year old’s perspective.)
The constant back and forth jabs at slightly off-color humor that the wonderful actors bring with their rich singing voices and movement/dance infuse the evening with history and pain.
A deeply moving Marcus J. Paige as Heywood, one of the prisoners, gives one of the great performances of the evening, singing with sorrow, pathos and simplicity a beautiful ballad called “Nothin”. A great actor doing great work!
Director Brandon Jackson allows each sterling moment to shine. Choreographer Kimberly Valmore stages the work with amazing versatility and imagination. Musical director Diana Lee conducts the lovely backstage three-piece ensemble.
42nd Street Moon has found a niche of excellence in their presentation. The pain, the guilt, and the cry to the future for change and understanding are paramount. See this musical and you will laugh and weep!
ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco based actor and director. and a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. He is a Professor Emeritus of Solano College. Contact: email@example.com
|Production||The Scottsboro Boys|
John Kander + Fred Ebb
|Directed by||Brandon Jackson|
|Producing Company||42nd Street Moon|
|Production Dates||Thru May 21st|
|Production Address||The Gateway Theatre
215 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA
|Tickets||$35 – $80|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review PICK?||----|