The Scottsboro Boys

“This time, can we tell the truth?” said one of the minstrel show performers. The Interlocutor, the master of ceremonies of the minstrel show, agrees with a shrug and then admits to the audience that they’ve never told the truth before.

The Interlocutor, played by Tony Award-winner Ron Holgate, and his cast of energetic and talented young men will now veer from their normal tall tales and tell the story of the monumental “Scottsboro” case of the 1930’s, where the truth, although told by all nine of the African American men accused of rape, was ignored.

The importance of the truth is definitely stressed in this play within a play. John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “The Scottsboro Boys,” is now playing at the Old Globe in San Diego.  May 5 marked the west coast premiere of  the Broadway show and was presented in association with American Conservatory Theater. This premier brought together many members of the original creative team including the associate director and choreographer, stage manager, scenic, costume, and lighting design.

Due to the carnival nature of minstrel shows, many of the musical numbers were upbeat and energetic, even the ones containing sad and racist subject matter. For example in the number where the prison guards explain to youngest of the incarcerated nine how he will get the chair, the music is lively and the dancing and the lighting effects so entertaining, that the audience is both horror stricken and impressed at the same time. Numbers such as these with the upbeat music and sadistic lyrics do an excellent job at conveying the injustices and brutality that not just the Scottsboro Boys experienced, but all African Americans faced during this time period.

The music and lyrics were ingenious and represented the harshness and close-mindedness of the thirties. Kander and Ebbs, who collaborated in “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” helped create another top notch production. Director and Choreographer Susan Stroman, who directed and choreographed 12 Tony Award Winner “The Producers,” once again  created beautiful staging and engaging choreography.

The pure creativity of the show alone is worth taking the trip to Balboa park. “Scottsboro Boys” will be playing through June 10 on the Donald an Darlene Shiley Stage in the Old Globe Theater.