The Scottsboro Boys

The great musical-theater team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, along with book writer David Thompson and veteran director Susan Stroman, have done their damnedest to turn abstract ideas of race and representation into Broadway material. The Scottsboro Boys is a heavily ironized retelling of the titular 1930s court case (nine youths were held for years in an Alabama prison on trumped-up charges of rape). Using tropes of blackface minstrelsy to highlight this grotesque miscarriage of justice is a smart tactic, but the creative team never achieves the right balance of beauty and ugliness; they try to pander and subvert at the same time.—David Cote


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