Eli Davies reviews a theatrical portrayal of the first desegregated jazz club in the USA
Café Society opened in 1938, the first jazz club in the USA where people could perform regardless of their race. During its existence, it saw the performances of some huge names, from Billie Holiday to Count Basie. It was revelatory and a huge step in a country that was mired in racism and prejudice.
A play about the jazz club, Jazz at Café Society, has recently been showing in London, and Eli Davies went to see how it was. She came away struck by the plethora of strong perfomances and the importance of female musicians in the history of jazz. With only a few performers taking on many roles, a huge number of artists are showcased; between them, the women covered songs by Sarah Vaughan, Susan Reed, Nellie Lutcher, Lucienne Boyer and many others.
How did all these songs come together to create a story? Read Eli’s review to find out more about this production and its portrayal of Café Society.