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Theatre Review: ''Scottsboro Boys,'' at Suzanne Roberts, Puts Tunes Over Tragedy

By Bob Nelson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Theatre Company has raised the curtain on an award-winning production of "The Scottsboro Boys," loosely based on an ugly incident from the 1930s in which a group of African-American teenagers were falsly accused of terrible crimes.

While this production is an impressive collection of song and dance, the resulting show is painfully thin as an historical narrative.

The Scottsboro case began with a group of nine black teenagers hitching a ride in the South atop the roofs of railroad freight cars.  They were captured by Southern authorities and accused of rape.

This is the framework of the challenge.

So, if you are turned on by musical song and dance, "The Scottsboro Boys" is vaudeville with a capital "V."  The music and lyrics are from the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the book is by David Thompson, and the direction and choreography by Susan Stroman are recreated here.

"The Scottsboro Boys" is, at its heart, a song-and-dance musical with little of the agony of the actual racial narrative.  It's set to run at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre through February 19th.

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