American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) will close its 2011–12 season with the Bay Area premiere of The Scottsboro Boys, the critically acclaimed musical based on a tragic chapter in American history. Nominated for twelve 2011 Tony Awards, The Scottsboro Boys features music and lyrics by the legendary Broadway songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman), book by David Thompson (Steel Pier, Chicago), musical direction by Eric Ebbenga, and direction and choreography by five-time Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman (The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Contact). Jeff Whiting will serve as associate director and choreographer. Tony and Emmy Award winner Hal Linden (Barney Miller, The Rothschilds on Broadway) joins the stellar cast as The Interlocutor. The Scottsboro Boys performs a limited run June 21–July 15, 2012, at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco). Press night is Wednesday, June 27, at 8 p.m. Tickets (starting at $20) are on sale now and may be purchased online at act-sf.org or by calling 415.749.2228.
Based on the notorious 1931 "Scottsboro Case," The Scottsboro Boys tells the story of nine African American teenagers-ranging from 13 to 19 years old-convicted of raping two white girls on a Southern Railroad freight train while hitching a ride to Memphis in search of employment. Despite the fact that one of the original complainants later denied that any rape had occurred, the nine teenagers were subjected to years of brutal imprisonment, death-sentence verdicts, denied appeals, and long-delayed pardons for a crime they did not commit. Reclaiming the framework of a minstrel show, the musical-through high-energy dance numbers and upbeat music-courageously addresses one of the most abhorrent episodes in American history.
The Scottsboro Boys had its world premiere in February 2010 at the Vineyard Theatre in New York City. The show moved to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in July 2010, where it played to sold-out houses, before moving to Broadway's Lyceum Theatre in October 2010. The show was nominated for twelve 2011 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was the recipient of the 2010 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. The show was also nominated for nine 2010 Drama Desk Awards and received a Drama League Award nomination for Distinguished Production of a Musical.
Says Artistic Director Carey Perloff: "Susan Stroman is an American treasure whose work has never been seen on the A.C.T. stage. It's such an honor to welcome her to San Francisco with this seamless, passionate, and imaginative staging of Kander and Ebb's fascinating tale. With The Scottsboro Boys, Stroman manages to fuse astonishing dancing with heartfelt and complex storytelling in a unique and masterful way that will provide a wonderful complement to A.C.T.'s history of edgy musicals like The Threepenny Opera, Urinetown, Sweeney Todd, and last season's production of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City."
The Scottsboro Boys marks the fourth and final collaboration for John Kander, Fred Ebb, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson. Previous collaborations included the 1987 off-Broadway revival of Flora, The Red Menace, the 1991 off-Broadway production of And the World Goes 'Round, and the 1997 Broadway production of Steel Pier. Looking at famous trials of the 20th century as inspiration for their next show, the four were immediately drawn to the compelling story of the Scottsboro Boys trial. Says Kander: "As a young boy growing up in Kansas City, I remember when the Scottsboro Boys were first in the headlines. I remember the conversations with my parents about what the trials meant. I am sure there were similar conversations at kitchen tables across the country. I also remember when the headlines began to fade and the Scottsboro Boys gradually disappeared from the national spotlight. As we began to write The Scottsboro Boys, it was immediately apparent why it was so important to tell their story. Behind the headlines, the spectacle, the ongoing trials, and the histrionics of politicians and lawyers was the story of nine young African American boys, determined to prove that they mattered."