Home

In 1931 nine African American teenagers were wrongly accused of raping two white women while aboard a freight train in Alabama. Worried they might get imprisoned for prostitution while traveling aboard the same train, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates quickly cried rape, diverting the attention rather to the handful of innocent boys. These nine boys became known as The Scottsboro Boys, growing more and more infamy as their many trials became public interest throughout the nation. Fighting through Southern angry mobs, an all-white jury and a trial that was hastened, the nine boys were quickly convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. As word spread of the prejudice demonstrated, Northerners eventually stepped in to see that such a miscarriage of justice be overturned, but that was just the beginning of a process clouded by an ugly and unjust preconception. The uphill fight was long and grueling and successes were slow in the making. The story, superbly performed by Porchlight Music Theatre, is remarkable, sad and hopeful.

Written by David Thompson and directed by Samuel G. Roberson, “The Scottsboro Boys” is a controversial musical, now making its debut in Chicago after Broadway and London runs, and is the last featuring the music and lyrics of John Kander and Fred Ebb, mostly known for their triumphant smash hits “Chicago” and “Cabaret”. The story, a compelling and emotional ride through the racist South is a painful lesson of our nation’s dark history and serves as a stark reminder that change for a better world must never be ignored as we move forward as a unified people.  

Throughout the musical’s duration, we see an image of a pained Rosa Parks (Cynthia Clarey) who plays witness to the injustices that take place. Though her stand wouldn’t take place until years later, we see the effect such a stirring account would have on approaching generations. Sad as this tragic story as such is, we feel hope for the future by the play’s end and a realization for the work that still needs to be done.

“This is a story that needs to be told,” says Mark J.P. Hood who stars as Mr. Tambo. 

The nearly all African American cast delivers several all-around brilliant performances, doling out tremendous vocal harmony efforts, powerful acting and dance numbers that are both inventive and energetic. Currently running at Stage 773, a mid-sized theatre, the only drawback is that it is easy to envision the musical preformed on a larger stage, sometimes routines appearing a bit crowded. Still, that’s a very small drawback, because the play’s director is able to utilize its given space to maximize this Broadway-sized show effectively, moving boxcars and all.    

Denzel Tsopnang and Mark J.P. Hood lead this gifted ensemble along with James Earl Jones II with commanding acting performances that would be hard to beat. The Scottsboro Boys is a real showcase for both Tsopnang and Hood, who flex their versatility while taking on a handful of roles. Veteran actor Larry Yondo, most recently known for his spot-on portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol”, also puts forth yet another admirable effort as The Interlocutor. With several beautiful vocal harmonies that sweep the house with robust sentiment, it is perhaps “Go Back Home”, a pivotal number that relates to those longing to find peace passionately led by Jones II, that will truly resonate with theatre goers long after the show. Though the vocal finesse is abundant throughout, fourteen-year-old Cameron Goode and Stephen Allen Jr. somehow find room to dazzle us even more. 

As jaw dropping as many of the numbers are in their performance, the audience often finds reluctance in their clapping, the weight of the subject matter almost seemingly inappropriate to applaud. But it is in these performances that the story is told so well. A handful of poignant casting twists take place as the white policemen and the woman accusers are played by African Americans. 

“The Scottsboro Boys” is a highly recommended theatre experience, both exceptional in its performance and its ever-important message. Wonderfully staged, acted and sung, this is a thoroughly entertaining production that will invoke much thought, inspire bravery and encourage action to be taken long afterwards. 

“The Scottsboro Boys” is being performed at Stage 773 through March 12th. For tickets and/or more show information click here.     

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Gorgeous Musical Journey by Greyhound Richly Revives the Broadway Gem, Violet

12 December 2017 in Theatre Reviews

I was blown away by how great the score, acting and singing were in Griffin Theatre’s new show, Violet. I…

Chicago's Tap Theatre's "Tidings of Tap" brightens the holidays

11 December 2017 in Dance in Review

For those who may have missed this one time show on December 10th, The return of Tidings of Tap, was…

Review: 'Turandot' at Lyric Opera of Chicago

08 December 2017 in Theatre in Review

Finding love is hard. What someone else wants can sometimes be a riddle, but in the case of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’…

Beautiful: The Story of a Natural Woman

08 December 2017 in Theatre in Review

While I’d yet to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical since it premiered to much acclaim (and a U.S. tour)…

Gobsmacked Brings A Cappella to Chi-aca-cago!

08 December 2017 in Theatre Reviews

It’s fitting that the opening tune of Gobsmacked! declares, “Turn up the radio, blast your stereo right,” because the show…

"Rudolph the Red Hosed Reindeer" is Funnier and more Glamorous Than Ever in 2017!

05 December 2017 in Theatre in Review

This is Hell in a Handbag’s 15th Season and yet every year I look forward more than ever to seeing…

Almost Elton John's Christmas Concert Rocks The MAC

04 December 2017 in In Concert

The McAninch Arts Center (The MAC) located at the College of Dupage kicked off the holiday season with one of…

Joffrey’s "The Nutcracker" is a marvelous Christmas spectacle

04 December 2017 in Dance in Review

A delightful winter holiday ballet staple, Joffrey’s The Nutcracker gets a make-over by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and Joffrey’s…

A Bromance for the Ages: Bizet's The Pearl Fishers at the Lyric

04 December 2017 in Theatre Reviews

The Pearl Fishers has been called Bizet’s most beautiful opera. Lyric’s electric production is certainly one of the most beautiful…

Goodman's "A Christmas Carol" still tops list for Holiday fun in Chicago

30 November 2017 in Theatre in Review

Chicago has no shortage of Christmas traditions. In other words, if you’re looking for holiday fun it’s not very hard…

TATC's A Wonderful Life is Wonderful Fun

23 November 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

The classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, based on the story The Greatest Gift, is brought to life by Theatre…

Kid Friendly, Parent Approved: Sleeping Beauty shines at Marriott Theatre

22 November 2017 in Theatre Reviews

This past week I found myself in a movie theater with reclining seats, an overpriced large popcorn, and a two…

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles

Guests Online

We have 98 guests and no members online

Buzz Chicago on Facebook Buzz Chicago on Twitter