Friday, January 8, 2016


If you’re interested in traveling back to a wonderful (and awful) time—in jazz and in America—then you should pencil in Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31. That’s when you can take a ride back to the days of the Cotton Club, the famous New York City nightclub, in Curtain Up at the Cotton Club at the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square.

The Cotton Club era was wonderful because many of the all-time jazz greats performed at there in Harlem during the 1920s and 30s: Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Louie Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and many more. However, it was awful because while the performers were predominantly African-American, only whites were allowed in as patrons. In fact, the black performers themselves weren’t allowed to mix with the clientele, often composed of cream of New York society at the time.

Of course, everyone will be welcome to come and enjoy the music of the Cotton Club at the Hanna, performed by the full 16-piece Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. That group has collaborated with The Musical Theater Project to produce this two-day concert hosted by their respective artistic directors: TMTP’s Bill Rudman and CJO’s Paul Ferguson. 

Featured singers will include Treva Offut and local jazz favorites Evelyn Wright and John Morton. Supplementing the CJO will be the Joe Hunter Trio. And of course, Bill Rudman will share many historical tidbits along with photos from the time in this multi-media production.

We were all “born too late” to experience the Cotton Club in its heyday. But thankfully we have The Musical Theater Project and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra to transport us back to that time.

Curtain Up at the Cotton Club

Saturday, January 30 at 8 PM and Sunday, January 31 at 2 PM, at the Hanna Theatre, 2067 East 14th St. 216-241-6000.

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