In Cotton Club Parade, Encores! Imagines the Days When Floorshows Shook the Floor

By Jack Viertel
07 Nov 2012

Amber Riley joins the cast
Photo by FOX

Many were brilliant performers whose work never reached the larger population. As the premiere event of the new collaboration between New York City Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center, we've chosen The Cotton Club during its greatest period: the Ellington years. In trying to recreate the glory of the Club's stage show, we were thrilled to discover that the young African-American performers who have come of age in the 21st century were prepared to go us one better. While jazz and Broadway still stand side-by-side, another dimension has been added, influenced by contemporary street dancing in all its variants. Descended from the same traditions that fueled the classic Cotton Club performers, these artists proudly carry on an ever-evolving tradition and — though they sometimes have to fight to be honored in their own land — they are thankfully no longer relegated to the shadows.

As a result, this new Cotton Club Parade celebrates the past while keeping an eye on the present and future. It blends Duke Ellington's music, newly minted by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with a cast drawn from traditionalists and modernists reaching for a full range of styles and attitudes. We hope, after all these decades (the Harlem club closed in 1936, the Times Square location in 1940) it retains the freshness that marked the original editions, and remains the greatest — if perhaps now nearly the only — floorshow on earth.

*



Cotton Club Parade, Nov. 14-18, is conceived by Jack Viertel, featuring Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, who is music director. The production is directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. The show will feature the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars under the direction of Daryl Waters. The 2012 cast includes and Alexandria "Brinae Ali" Bradley, Andrew "Dr.Ew" Carter, Kyra Da Costa, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Jared Grimes, La Tanya Hall, Jeremiah "Supaman" Haynes, Joshua Henry, Christopher Jackson, Monroe Kent III, Adriane Lenox, Karine Plantadit, T. Oliver Reid, Amber Riley and Britton Smith.

(Jack Viertel is artistic director of Encores! This feature first appeared in the fall 2011 Playbill of City Center.)