“Maybe times'll turn"
The 2013 Young Vic production of The Scottsboro Boys was a late highlight of that year and its well-deserved transfer at the end of 2014 extended the run for this stirring Kander + Ebb show. Taking on the format of a minstrel show and tipping it almightily on its head, a group of African-American performers come together to tell the chilling story of the Scottsboro Boys trial, a tipping point of both racism and the inequity of the US justice system.
Whilst not the most obvious subject for a musical, it’s possibly all the more effective for it, it’s disarmingly suave charm easily seducing the listener musically whilst horrifying them lyrically. This potent mixture is thus wonderfully conflicting as you tap your foot and bob your head to the undeniably tuneful minstrelsy before you realise how chilling Julian Glover’s Cullum really is. It makes a mockery of the fact that the show could ever have been protested on Broadway.
This recording is blessed by the presence of a number of cast members from that original production and you can hear the experience in the richness of their vocals here – Brandon Victor Dixon’s lead Haywood is astounding, whether leading on the (relative) upbeat note of ‘Commencing in Chattanooga’ or the exquisite agony of ‘Go Back Home’, a truly exceptional moment of musical theatre that befits its status as one of Kander and Ebb’s final collaborations. Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon also shine as the bitingly witty Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, making this a striking recording of a striking score.