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The Scottsboro Boys

Musical in one act; book by David Thompson; music by John Kander; lyrics by Fred Ebb. Based on the Scottsboro Boys trial

Vineyard Theatre, Off-Broadway March 10, 2010: closed on April 18, 2010. (Season)
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 31, 2010; closed September 25, 2010
Lyceum Theatre, Broadway. October 31, 2010; closed on December 12, 2010 (29 previews and 49 perfs)


As she is waiting for a bus, a lady lifts a corner of a cake box she's holding. As it brings back memories, the scene around her fades aways, and the minstrels arrive ("Minstrel March"). The Interlocutor, the host of the Minstrel Show, introduces the players in the troupe, then begins the story ("Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!").

In 1931, Haywood Patterson, one of the nine boys at a train station, is ready to see the world ("Commencing in Chattanooga"). As the train is stopped, two runaway girls jump out. To get away, they accuse the nearby boys of rape ("Alabama Ladies"), and the boys are sent to jail. However, without a good lawyer ("Nothing"), they are found guilty and are sentenced to death at Kilby Prison. Eugene, the youngest, has nightmares ("Electric Chair"). Awaiting execution, the boys think about the one thing they want most ("Go Back Home"). Just as the executions are about to begin, the verdict is overturned. In the North, the case has become a cause celebre, and the Supreme Court has ruled the boys didn't have effective counsel. While the boys aren't free, they do get another trial ("Shout!").

A year later, they are still in prison. Haywood learns to write, and shares his short story ("Make Friends With the Truth"). The next trail gets underway in the spring of 1933. Public outrage over the trial has grown, especially in the North. They are given a New York lawyer, Samuel Leibowitz, to represent them to court ("That's Not The Way We Do Things"). During the trail, Ruby Bates, one of the girls, surprises the court and admits that the boys are innocent ("Never Too Late"). But, upon cross-examination, the Southern District Attorney claims that Ruby Bates' change of heart was purchased by the defense ("Financial Advice").

While the boys sit in a holding cell, waiting for the verdict, they talk about what they will do when the trial is over, believing that they can't be found guilty of crime that never happened. They talk about heading North, but the Interlocutor reminds them that they belong in the South ("Southern Days"). The boys are found guilty again and are sent back to prison. Haywood tries to escape in order to see his mother before she dies ("Commencing in Chattanooga (reprise)"), but he's quickly caught.

As time passes, Leibowitz and the North continue to appeal the verdict. In every trial, the boys are found guilty. Even the other girl, Victoria Price, begins to buckle ("Alabama Ladies (reprise)"). By 1937, four of the youngest boys are released, but the other five remain in prison. Haywood wonders: "Will ever be justice?" Finally, Haywood is brought up for parole in front of the governor of Alabama, but is demanded to plead guilty ("It's Gonna Take Time").

He tells the truth that he didn't do the crime, but is sent back to prison again ("'Zat So?/You Can't Do Me"). Haywood dies twenty-one years later in prison. As the show ends, the Interlocutor calls for the finale, but the boys are reluctant ("The Scottsboro Boys").

The scene fades back to the bus stop, just as the bus arrives. The lady, who is, in fact, Rosa Parks, boards the bus. The driver tells her to sit in the back to make room for a white man to sit down, but she stays in the front. Parks' action spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott.[2]

Musical Numbers

  1. Minstrel March – Orchestra
  2. Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey! – Company
  3. Commencing in Chattanooga – Haywood and Scottsboro Boys
  4. Alabama Ladies – Victoria Price and Ruby Bates
  5. Nothin' – Haywood
  6. Electric Chair – Guards, Eugene, Electrofied Charlie, and Electrofied Issac
  7. Go Back Home – Haywood, Eugene, and Scottsboro Boys
  8. Shout! – Scottsboro Boys
  9. Make Friends with the Truth – Haywood, Billy, and Scottsboro Boys
  10. That's Not the Way We Do Things – Samuel Leibowitz
  11. Never Too Late – Ruby Bates and Scottsboro Boys
  12. Financial Advice – Attorney General
  13. Southern Days – Scottsboro Boys
  14. Alabama Ladies (Reprise) – Victoria Price
  15. It's Gonna Take Time – Interlocutor
  16. Zat So – Governor of Alabama, Samuel Leibowitz, and Haywood
  17. You Can't Do Me – Haywood
  18. The Scottsboro Boys – Scottsboro Boys


The Scottsboro Boys:

* all roles played by one actor

Background to the Trial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottsboro_Boys