Scottsboro Boys dazzles at Garrick
The West End transfer of the Young Vic production is 'fierce, bold and relentlessly entertaining'
Rarely do form and content dance such an intimate, dangerous tango as in The Scottsboro Boys... Nothing about the Scottsboro Nine's case makes it obvious material for a musical, but then Kander and Ebb aren't about obvious... murderesses and Nazis don't seem like ideal toe-tapping candidates either, yet Chicago and Cabaret are now undisputed classics. It's easy to see The Scottsboro Boys soon inhabiting the same territory with its brilliant blend of incendiary rage, black humour and infectious tunes. That's not to mention Stroman's dazzling choreography, in which not one step is wasted... Stroman's production manages to be at once fierce, bold and relentlessly entertaining... the same fury that simmers beneath Kander and Ebb's score glints through the grimaces of the uniformly excellent cast.
Susan Stroman's production - cleverly and simply designed by Beowulf Boritt - mines the dark, brutal humour to an entirely merited and an almost uncomfortably provocative degree. The choreography is often electrifying... This is a show that boasts a brilliant ensemble, but Brandon Victor Dixon shines particularly as Hayward Patterson... The score doesn't have the earworm catchiness of Kander and Ebb's best shows, and dazzles more than it delights... this is a genuinely radical musical, full of stinging indignation and plaintive power.
This West End transfer of Susan Stroman's accomplished production is richly deserved and it is only to be hoped that such intelligent, determinedly downbeat fare doesn't struggle in a commercial climate... The music is magnificent... The plaintive lament "Go Back Home" is especially memorable, but on the whole the songs are jovial and up-tempo in a deliberate undercutting of the seriousness of the storyline... Mr Bones (Colman Domingo) and Mr Tambo (Forrest McClendon) could usefully tone their very broad performances down, but the Boys themselves are a quiet, dignified triumph.
... a shocking experience - the more so because it is also irresistibly entertaining. The score is stuffed with infectious ragtime tunes... Susan Stroman's production and choreography are incandescent with energy and invention, and the company deliver performances of gut-punching power... Kander and Ebb's show, with a book by David Thompson, subverts the vaudevillian minstrel tradition of white performers in blackface... Sometimes this is unsettlingly funny... More often, it's horrific... Elsewhere it's simply shattering... This is a devastating show of dazzling sophistication and snarling wit that leaves you reeling. Brave, brilliant and unmissable.
My only hope is that it can now become the hit it utterly deserves to be. Here's a dazzlingly executed piece of showbusiness panache, and all for a story that truly matters. This is no case of style over content, but a show where the style superbly serves the content... Casting this as a minstrel show creates layer upon ironic layer in which the audience can be bedazzled while also questioning the shocking story that creates such an enjoyable yet chastening show... The piece is powered by an excellent book by David Thompson, and a glinting, brassy score by Kander and Ebb... Susan Stroman's highly energised production has a blend of Broadway originals and dazzling British company members that make this one of the most thrillingly performed shows in town.