The Cotton Club At The New London Theatre

For a brief time, London had it's own Cotton Club Revue

At The Embassy Rooms

The Cotton Club opened for business on Sunday 12 September 1999 at The Embassy Rooms in London. The evening opened with a three-course meal served at tables around and on the dance floor. The host for the night, one Al Fresco, entertained the audience with his humour between introducing the acts. The house band is Pete Long's 9.20 Deluxe, complete with a new book of tunes especially for the show.

And what a show. If anyone asks you to explain what swing/jazz/tap dance is about, take them to The Cotton Club and let the dancers explain it for you. There's a eclectic collection of styles: chorus lines, jazz dance, tap and of course, Lindy Hop. Star turns include Temujin Gil and Sunanda's Lindy/jazz routines, Bret Jones' 'impromptu' display as Fred Astaire (with Nina 'Ginger' Daines), followed by a tap challenge and the jazz troupe (a programme would be nice to get the names!) who combined rhythm and acrobatics.

Singer Amanda Simons has the vocal style of Billie Holiday, and she renders a fine version of "God Bless The Child". Mr. Fresco also takes a turn with the mouth harp on a completely anachronistic but equally impressive blues number, with 9.20 Deluxe backing him to the hilt. At the end of the evening there's time for some social dancing to the band. On the opening night, the performers had no trouble in encouraging members of the audience to get up, having spotted two tables of swing dancers and deciding they were a shoo-in.

The Cotton Club runs every Sunday and is a fine night out. It's different to the usual night out social dancing, and so definitely worth making a special occasion one evening and getting along there.

At The New London Theatre

Daphne Dwin-Four's Cotton Club show re-opened on Sunday 2 April 2000 at its new home at The New London Theatre in Drury Lane, Covent Garden London. The show lost its previous venue at The Embassy Rooms last December when the management company there went into receivership.

The move has done no harm at all, and the show is now slicker and sparklier than ever. The format remains the same, a dinner dance with a floor show, and there have been quite a few improvements made. The band remains the same, with Pete Long leading The Ellington Tribute Band, which is essentially 9.20 Deluxe, with an expanded repertoire to include Miles Davis' So What and Bill Robinson's Living In A Great Big Way as backing for the new performers.

The line-up of performers is excellent: the host for the evening is still Al Fresco, and although his jokes haven't improved, he's still blowing a fabulous blues harmonica. There are three vocalists in the show: Echoes of Ellington/9.20 Deluxe chanteuse Patti Revell, Amanda Simons and Jitterbug Joe Noble. The Lindy Hop dancers are Temujin Gil and Sunanda, with Tobias Tak and Junior providing the tap and The Cotton Club Chorus Girls opening each half of the show and embellishing several other numbers.

Jitterbug Joe Noble Jitterbug Joe Noble and The Chorus.

The show opens with Puttin' On The Ritz played by the band, before the Chorus and Temujin and Sunanda appear for a sultry Latin number. Then Jitterbug Joe hits the stage. Fresh from the show Mama Mia, his style must be better suited to swing than Abba, as his exuberant rendition on It Don't Mean A Thing testifies. And the boy has got some nice moves, too. Temujin and Sunanda return for some high-speed Lindy during Jumpin' At The Woodside before Patti Revell takes the stage in an ice-cool blue gown and flowered blonde hair. Old Devil Moon and Fever, two 9.20 favourites, give the opportunity for the band to show off too, with Darren Lloyd blowing a hot trumpet on the first number, while Pete Long gathers up the stage-stealing Revell-tones on backing vocals for Fever.

Tobias Tak and Junior Tobias Tak and Junior lay down some iron.

It's tap time. And who better than Tobias Tak and Junior. Those who saw this duo at The South Bank in 1998 will be familiar with the kind of storm they can cook up, and the only thing you'll be wanting at the end is more. Even Miles Davis would have to approve of their treatment of So What. The pace of the show calms down a little for Amanda Simons to sing The Man I love in a Lady Day style, before upping the tempo for Now Or Never. Then it's back to tap with Junior's solo spot during the Earl Hines' tune Interlude. The first half closes with The Chorus flying through a Big Apple to a fast Sugarfoot Stomp, before Jitterbug Joe gives the band a Fifteen Minute Intermission.

The New London Theatre is right next to the venue that's home to Cats, and is much more intimate than The Embassy Rooms. The audience is closer to the stage and dance floor, and the lighting is a vast improvement, and is well used during the show. Mention should be made of the sound system too, as this is crystal-clear throughout the evening. The Chorus Girls now get to wear some great costumes, sparkly high-cut hot pants and flowing white dresses.

Sunanda sings Cocabana to introduce the second half, and the Chorus swish their Spanish dresses around in fine style. Al Fresco's blues are hotted up by some fine guitar playing by Adam Goldsmith, before Patti Revell returns for Let's Call The Whole Thing Off and a bluesy Black Coffee. Then Tobias Tak cooks the wood during his solo Living In A Great Big Way. Then he gets to show of his mastery of the rhythm tap style with an unaccompanied piece that created a pin-dropping atmosphere in the club.

The Fan Dance Somewhere behind the fans is Joe Noble!

Temujin and Sunanda have a smooch to The Mooche before Jitterbug Joe takes over. And how. The Lady With The Fan sees the Chorus slide into the audience and heat up some of the men before cooling them with a waft of their feathers. Amanda Simons returns to the Billie Holiday songbook for God Bless The Child, backed by an excellent sax solo by Pete Long. Then it's time to pick up the pace with Ain't Misbehavin', with Darren Lloyd blowing some hot horn leading into a storming New Orleans-style finish. The band themselves get to close things out with Back Bay Shuffle, featuring Lloyd, Andy Cuss and Colin Skinner. A final introduction of all the evening's performers, and then the dance floor is turned over to the audience, as the band plays on.

Dinner, the show and dancing costs 38, show and dancing only 20. There's also a 15% discount offer for members of The London Swing Dance Society. The box office number is 020 8761 7015. For a really entertaining night out of swing, song and tap, make sure you get along to this show.

The Performers Chorus, tappers, Lindy Hoppers and singers take a bow.

The performers:

The Ellington Tribute Band: Pete Long (saxophone and clarinet), Trevor Brown (piano), Winston Rollins (trombone), Jim Richardson (bass), Peter Ripper (saxophone), Colin Skinner (saxophone), Andy Cuss (trumpet), Darren Lloyd (trumpet), Tim Goodyear (drums), Adam Goldsmith (guitar).

Master of Ceremonies: Al Fresco

Vocalists: Jitterbug Joe, Patti Revell, Amanda Simons

Tap dancers: Tobias Tak, Junior

Lindy Hoppers: Temujin Gil and Sunanda

The Cotton Club Chorus Girls: Alexa, Andrea, Amanda, Alison and Danielle.

Post Script: Since this review was written, some of the performers changed. Sunday 14 May saw James Langton handling the MC duties and singing The Fan Song. A week later, the show closed.

All material © 2000. You read it here first!

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