Minneapolis Behind Them, The Scottsboro Boys Head East Toward Broadway

News   Minneapolis Behind Them, The Scottsboro Boys Head East Toward Broadway
 
The Guthrie Theater engagement of the new Broadway-bound musical The Scottsboro Boys ends in Minneapolis Sept. 25 following performances from July 31. The creative team, including director-choreographer Susan Stroman and writers John Kander and David Thompson, spent time in Minnesota refining their social justice-themed entertainment.

Joshua Henry
Joshua Henry Photo by Paul Kolnik

From the show's inception, Broadway masters Kander (composer) and the late Fred Ebb (lyricist) sought to tell the fact-inspired case of American injustice in the archaic but highly theatrical form of a minstrel show, underlining the grotesque nature of the true story.

The Guthrie engagement at McGuire Proscenium Stage featured refinements and changes since the show's spring world-premiere run at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre. The libretto is by Thompson (Steel Pier). Some additional lyrics are by Kander, who survives his longtime collaborator Ebb, with whom he conceived this show many years ago.

Commercial producers Fran and Barry Weissler plucked up the property in the spring and are carrying it to Broadway, with a few cast changes since the Vineyard.

"We're really tweaking it," producer Fran Weissler previously said of the Guthrie run. "We added a song, we took away a song. Susan [Stroman] and John [Kander] and Tommy [librettist David Thompson] have a chance now to do it again. You look at what you've done and think, 'I did it. Now I have the time to really look at it, and maybe I can do more.' Every day, something new happens. We have a few new actors on top of that, so it's very exciting."

Most notably, Joshua Henry, who created the "Favorite Son" military hero in Broadway's American Idiot, now stars as one of the central figures in the case: He plays Haywood Patterson, one of nine young men wrongly accused of rape in Depression-era Alabama. Patterson is a focal point in the musical, and (at least Off-Broadway) got to sing the plaintive jail cell number "Go Back Home." (Brandon Victor Dixon originated the role Off-Broadway, and will play Ray Charles in the Broadway musical Unchain My Heart.)

Henry was featured in the original Broadway cast of In the Heights and in the City Center production of The Wiz. He also appeared in Paper Mill Playhouse's Godspell.

Also joining the company with the Guthrie run was Jeremy Gumbs as Eugene Williams. David Anthony Brinkley played the The Interlocutor in Minnesota. On Broadway, Tony Award winner John Cullum will return to that role, which he created at the Vineyard. Ken Billington is the new lighting designer.

The Scottsboro Boys will open on Broadway Oct. 31 at the Lyceum Theatre. Previews will begin Oct. 7.

According to producers, "Based on the notorious 'Scottsboro' case in the 1930s (in which nine African-American men were unjustly accused of a terrible crime) this daring and wildly entertaining musical explores a fascinating chapter in American history with brilliant originality."

The critically acclaimed production follows the lead of the script and borrows elements of the now-dead American theatrical form of a "minstrel show" — to make its social-justice points (and its theatrical ones, too). For much of the history of the form (which dates to the early 19th century), performances were acted by white men in blackface. All but one actor in Scottsboro Boys is black. Read Playbill.com's earlier feature about this postmodern take on minstrel shows.

Also at the Guthrie are ten cast members from the Vineyard production: Sean Bradford as Ozie Powell and Ruby Bates, Josh Breckenridge as Olen Montgomery, Derrick Cobey as Andy Wright, Colman Domingo as Mr. Bones, Rodney Hicks as Clarence Norris, Kendrick Jones as Willie Roberson, Forrest McClendon as Mr. Tambo, Julius Thomas III as Roy Wright, Sharon Washington as The Lady and Christian Dante White as Charles Weems and Victoria Price.

For the record, the Broadway cast will include Josh Breckenridge as Olen Montgomery, Derrick Cobey as Andy Wright, John Cullum as Interlocutor, Colman Domingo as Mr. Bones, Jeremy Gumbs as Eugene Williams, Joshua Henry as Haywood Patterson, Rodney Hicks as Clarence Norris, Kendrick Jones as Willie Roberson, James T. Lane as Ozie Powell and Ruby Bates , Forrest McClendon as Mr. Tambo, Julius Thomas III as Roy Wright, Sharon Washington as The Lady, Christian Dante White as Charles Weems and Victoria Price, with E. Clayton Cornelious, JC Montgomery, Clinton Roane, Cherene Snow.

The Scottsboro Boys is one of the final produced collaborations by Tony Award-winning musical theatre writers Kander (composer) and Ebb (lyricist), whose work includes Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Zorba. Ebb died in 2004.

A cast album was recorded in recent weeks; an Oct. 12 release from JAY Records is expected.

Five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman staged such hits as The Producers, Contact and The Music Man. Book writer Thompson worked with Kander and Ebb on a revised Flora, the Red Menace and the musical Steel Pier and co-created their revue And the World Goes 'Round (all with Stroman). Thompson also adapted the script for Chicago's record-breaking revival.

The Scottsboro Boys is the winner of the 2010 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical and a 2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics.

The Broadway creative team includes set designer Beowulf Boritt, costume designer Toni-Leslie James and sound designer Peter Hylenski, orchestrator Larry Hochman, musical arranger Glen Kelly and music director David Loud.

The Scottsboro Boys will be produced on Broadway by Barry and Fran Weissler, Jacki Barlia Florin and The Vineyard Theatre.

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Broadway tickets ($39.50-$131.50; Premium $251.50) are available by calling Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200 or online at www.telecharge.com. Performances will be Tuesday through Sunday at 8 PM, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3 PM.

For more information, visit www.ScottsboroMusical.com.

Joshua Henry and the cast of <i>Scottsboro Boys</i>
Joshua Henry and the cast of Scottsboro Boys Paul Kolnik
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