From its haunting, memory-play opening to the uplifting poignancy of its final, surprise reveal, John Kander and Fred Ebb's 2010 risk-taking musical retelling of one of the galvanizing episodes of the early civil-rights movement makes for a stirring summation of the songwriting team's 45-year Broadway career. The Scottsboro Boys' biggest gamble is its greatest coup: namely, its conceit of staging one of the most outrageous injustices of the Jim Crow South as a minstrel show. But how better to implicate a 21st-century audience in the degradation of Jim Crow than through one of its most pervasive and contemptible cultural artifacts? David Thompson's incisive book nicely blends broad burlesque with the harrowing tale of nine black teenagers arrested off a rural Alabama freight train in 1931 and framed with the state's then-capital crime of black-on-white rape. Of the nine, the book focuses on the illiterate Haywood Patterson (the magnificent Joshua Henry), fashioning a portrait of resilience, dignity and resistance under adversity. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman mines Kander's canny survey of early jazz (ranging from faux-Stephen Foster blackface tunes and New Orleans rags to 1930s swing) and pulls out some thrilling production numbers, most notably Deandre Sevon's show-stopping, Max Fleischer-homage tap dance to “Electric Chair.”
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Thu., June 20, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m.; Thu., June 27, 2 p.m. Starts: May 29. Continues through June 30, 2013
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