“The Scottsboro Boys” is Electrifying at Signature Theatre

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Aramie Payton (Eugene Williams), Joseph Monroe Webb (Olen Montgomery), Darrell Purcell, Jr (Clarence Norris), Lamont Walker II (Haywood Patterson), Malik Akil (Charles Weems), C.K. Edwards (Roy Wright), DeWitt Fleming, Jr. (Ozie Powell), and Jonathan Adriel (Andy Wright) in “The Scottsboro Boys” at Signature Theatre. (Photo by C Stanley Photography.)

By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor

Why would anyone want to spend time watching a production and a musical, yet, that tells the shameful, ugly tale about how nine African American young men (one as young as 12) were dragged off a train in 1931, accused of rape, thrown in jail where most of them spent their lives trying to right the horrible wrongs perpetrated on them? I’ll tell you why and Joe Calarco, the brilliant director of “The Scottsboro Boys” (and last year’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”), will show you.

Felicia Curry (The Lady) in “The Scottsboro Boys” at Signature Theatre. (Photo by C Stanley Photography.)

The genius composer and lyricist team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (“Chicago” and “Cabaret”) wrote electrifying music and lyrics which you will never forget, but which will educate AND entertain you in a totally unexpected way. This cast is simply, in a word, marvelous! The singing, the dancing—brilliant, thrilling and mesmerizing. And it feels as if this cast has been together for years! The cohesiveness and beauty of their harmonies are extraordinary.

Plus, under the artful musical direction of Brian P. Whitted, the ragtime tunes, Negro spirituals and field songs, as well as lovely ballads might initially disgust you because of the difficult stories related through them, but the insistent music will keep you coming back for more. You can’t look away or turn off the rhythms, and without you realizing it, the high kicks and brilliant tap dancing will quite literally rock your soul! Several of the cast members were in Signature’s fabulous “Jelly’s Last Jam” as well as “Crazy for You.” Need I say more…

“The Scottsboro Boys” musical, with a book by David Thompson and original staging by Susan Stroman, walks a tightrope of entertainment and horrific truth and it just tore me up. All southerners who have ever felt ashamed of our history will relive it but in a very different way. I am one and I know. The audience didn’t know whether to laugh, clap, or sit in shocked silence during the first half of the show. In the second half they got a little more comfortable, and by the close of the show they were all fully immersed and screamed for the cast at curtain calls. Marvelous entertainment. Go see it. All young people need to know this part of our history because IT STILL EXISTS! History has a way of repeating itself.

Go for the backstory of nine young men who were treated so unfairly during the depression in the South, but stay for the stupendous singing, exhilarating dancing, the ingenious set and the delicious eight-piece orchestra! Oh, my—perfection!

Chaz Alexander Coffin (Mr. Tambo) and Stephen Scott Wormley (Mr. Bones) in “The Scottsboro Boys” at Signature Theatre. (Photo by C Stanley Photography.)

The Scottsboro Boys. Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Book by David Thompson. Original Direction and Choregraphy by Susan Stroman. Music Direction by Brian P. Whitted. Choreography by Jared Grimes. Directed by Joe Calarco. Scenic Design by Daniel Conway. Costume Design by Emilio Sosa. Lighting Design by Sherrice Mojgani. Sound Design by Ryan Hickey. With Jonathan Adriel, Malik Akil, Christopher Bloch, Chaz Alexander Coffin, Felicia Curry, C.K. Edwards, DeWitt Fleming, Jr., Andre Hinds, Aramie Payton, Darrel Purcell, Jr. Lamont Walker II, Joseph Monroe Webb, Stephen Scott Wormley, and Iyona Blake. 

Ticket and Performance Information: Runs now through July 1, 2018 at Signature Theatre – The MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets call: 703-820-9771 or for more information visit: sigtheatre.org

Run Time: 2 hours with no intermission