Razzle dazzle and outrage in Kander and Ebb’s Scottsboro Boys

Jun 28

Razzle dazzle and outrage in Kander and Ebb’s <i>Scottsboro Boys</i>

The Scottsboro Boys is a musical on crusade. Not for the first time in their storied career, composers John Kander and the late Fred Ebb make some of the worst human traits entertaining all the while championing the underdog and giving splendid voice to those who might be otherwise ignored or forgotten.

The crusade at hand is two-fold: Kander and Ebb, working with book writer David Thompson and choreographer/director Susan Stroman – a copacetic dream team if ever there was one – want to rescue the victims of a particularly ignominious chapter in American history from obscurity. And they want nothing short of exposing the roots of the Civil Rights Movement. They accomplish both goals, and The Scottsboro Boys is as powerful as it is entertaining, and that's saying a lot on both counts.

We've seen Kander and Ebb working this particular vein before: politics, horror, victimization and good, old razzle-dazzle. We saw it in Cabaret, where singing Nazis made the blood run cold; we saw it in Chicago, where cynicism and celebrity trumped humanity; we saw it in Kiss of the Spider Woman, where revolutionary zeal was squashed but the human spirit is not. This is not to say that Scottsboro is a re-tread in any way. There are echoes of other shows, other songs, but this compact, deeply felt show ratchets up the disturbance factor with its very form.

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David Thompson on racism, history and making it all sing

Jun 24

David Thompson on racism, history and making it all sing

David Thompson is the first to admit that regardless of the show itself, he would do anything to work with John Kander, Fred Ebb and Susan Stroman, three major theater artists with whom he had collaborated on And the World Goes 'Round, the 1987 revival of Flora the Red Menace and Steel Pier.

"Working with John, Fred and Stro has been an extraordinary gift and privilege," Thompson says on the phone from his home in Millburn, N.J. "They come from a kind of theater that really understands the craft of telling a story and telling it well. We begin every work session with 'what if' and just throw ideas out there. Working with them, they've always found a way to inspire me to do better and bigger work – not in a grand way – their talent is so huge that everybody they work with brings the best possible work they can to the table."

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Bill Berloni brings out the animal in Broadway

Jul 29

When Bill Berloni barks, Broadway listens. Or, to be more accurate, when Berloni’s clients bark. Or meow. Or chirp. Berloni is the foremost theatrical animal trainer working on the stage today. If you’ve seen an animal on stage in the last 32 years, chances are pretty good Berloni had something to do with it. His very first job was finding a Sandy for...

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It’s alive!

Aug 25

Mel Brooks’ new musical comedy adaptation of Young Frankenstein, based on his and Gene Wilder’s 1974 movie of the same name, opened in its pre-Broadway tryout last week in Seattle. The two major critics, Misha Barton of the Seattle Times and Joe Adcock of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, had differing views on the show, which stars Roger Bart as Victor...

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