David Jackson/David White: Cotton Club Confidential-Style and Ease

David White met David Jackson 35 years ago when, at the last minute, he stepped into the Broadway production of Grand Hotel. They’ve been dear friends ever since. Jackson is White’s son’s godfather. The talented song and dance men are immensely likeable, their style relaxed and buoyant. White describes Jackson as “trustworthy, kind, and bossy.” Jackson describes White as “bombastic, intense and funny.”

“Take the A Train” (Billy Strayhorn/Lee Gaines) is cool and easy, “a little shuffle off.” White notes that Jackson wouldn’t have been able to pass the “brown paper bag” test applied to Cotton Club performers. Only those with skin the color of brown bags or lighter were hired. “They would’ve called me high yellow back then,” Jackson replies. “How many words do white people have for white? One,” White adds. “Copper Colored Gal” (Benny Davis/J. Fred Coots) is accompanied by bit of loose limbed, soft-shoe.

Both artists consider themselves lucky. “I’m Just a Lucky So and So” (Duke Ellington/Mack David) actually arrives sincere – an anomaly. White strolls the stage as Jackson watches with affection and pride. Jackson then begins the droll “Then I’d Be Satisfied With Life” (George M. Cohan) which becomes a winking duet: All I want is 50 million dollars/And seal silk to protect me from the cold./If I only knew how stocks would go in Wall Street/And were living in the mansion built of gold.

“Minnie the Moocher” (Cab Callaway/Irving Mills/ Clarence Gaskill) is a highlight. Both men wield batons. The audience robustly parrots Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi (hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi)/Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho (ho-ho-ho-ho-ho). Fun! Jackson’s rendering of “Stardust” (Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish) is inspired bythe son he never knew. It’s the one serious number tonight. Wistful interpretation includes mellow sax.

 “Maybe My Baby Loves Me,” the duet originally performed in Grand Hotel, has lost none of its brio. Classic scat, polished phrasing, and flirting with a front row patron, the friends slide into the song like a favorite old coat. (Robert Wright/ George Forrest/Maury Yeston) “Me and My Shadow” (Al Jolson/Billy Rose/Dave Dreyer) begins with a rarely heard verse. The artists sway and sashay across the stage singing counterpoint. Understatement is just right.

Guest Allyson Tucker, draped in a show-stopping purple gown, adds brightness and feminine sass. Alas rarely seen these days, the artist sings, swings and seductively moooves, to beat the band. After her solos, the trio performs “T’aint Nobody’s Business” (Porter Grainger/Everett Robbins) as it might’ve been seen in 1930s Harlem. “You Can’t Make Old Friends” (Ryan Hanna King/ Don Schlitz/Caitlyn Smith), the only contemporary selection, nicely ties things up with a satin bow. Good feelings abound.

The show’s title is a misnomer. Though there are photo stills, a few references and songs from the iconic Cotton Club, more than half the show is about the men’s enviable friendship. A choice of one or the other would better serve. Additionally, instrumentals, including an unnecessary warm-up medley, feel like filler.

Direction/Choreography suits both personality and restricted stage space – for dancing.

Opening: David White, David Jackson

David Jackson/David White: Cotton Club Confidential
Writer- Scott Brooks
Director/Choreographer- Lynette Barkley
Music Director/Piano-Alex Rybeck
Ritt Henn-Bass, Gene Ghee-Reeds, Ray Marchica- Drums

Repeated FEBRUARY 15, 2024

54Below
254 West 54th Street
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About Alix Cohen (1688 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.