It is fitting that Kander and Ebbs most popular musical Chicago, ended its fifteen year run in the West End two years ago at the same theatre where tonight their final show as a writing pair has just opened. Fred Ebb died in 2004 whilst the pair were writing the Scottsboro Boys. Four years later, John Kander decided to finish writing the show himself and it premiered on Broadway in 2010.
Alabama, America in 1931. 9 young black men were on a train from Chattanooga to Memphis when two young white women accused them of rape to avoid being arrested themselves. After three separate trials, only the four youngest boys were released (under the assumption that they had served their time). The others were left to rot.
The Scottsboro Boys is an important historical story of racism and injustice in a time where black people were treated like criminals, regardless of whether they were. Their skin colour was enough to have them arrested and leniency and fairness were never on their side.
The show is good, I mean what is there not to love about Kander and Ebb?! However the songs and the show did have a little too much familiarity for my liking. It was like watching a re-written version of Chicago with similar songs, choreography and a story that revolves around a court case. It would have been nice to make the show a little longer and delve into the background of some of the boys to really get to know who they were.
The set was very simple with just a stack of chairs, cleverly moved through interesting choreography throughout the performance. The acting and performances from the cast were nice with Julian Glover (Interlocutor) and Emile Ruddock (Willie Roberson) having that little bit of extra sparkle.
The Scottsboro Boys is a short musical at just under two hours. The great debate over whether or not short shows should have intervals comes up here as the show plays straight through. Many people love this as it means getting home sooner but after an hour or so people start to become very fidgety in their chairs which can be distracting. Recently I saw Speed The Plow and found it bizarre that they did choose to have an interval when the whole thing was over in 90 minutes. This raises the question of how long is too long?
This isn’t one of Kander and Ebbs best musicals in my opinion but it is a very important one for history and also for the writing duo as it marks the end of their relationship now Fred Ebb is no longer with us.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
The Scottsboro Boys is playing at the Garrick Theatre until 21 February 2015.