The Musical Theater Project and Cleveland Jazz Orchestra will co-produce “Curtain Up at The Cotton Club” for two performances on Saturday, January 30 (8pm) and Sunday, January 31 (2pm) at the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square.

In the 1920s and 30s the Cotton Club was the citadel of the New York jazz scene, its stage filled with the greatest black musical and theatrical talent this country has ever produced such as Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and many more. Classic Harold Arlen-Ted Koehler songs from the era include “Stormy Weather and “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

SIY Cotton Club Image


While the TMTP/CJO concert will highlight the brilliant songs and legendary performers of the club, it will also tell another story. Internationally famous, the room attracted royalty. But the club also embodied American racism, with a “whites only” admittance policy that sent its performers to the kitchen for supper.  Combining live performance, dozens of rare still images and film clips, the concert will document this stunning chapter in American cultural history.

The concert will be co-hosted by TMTP artistic director Bill Rudman and CJO artistic director Paul Ferguson. Featured singers are Treva Offut and local jazz favorites Evelyn Wright and John Morton. Supplementing the 16-piece CJO is the Joe Hunter trio with Hunter on piano.

For a full interview by Bill Rudman, check out this link.

“In American show business, the name Cotton Club is still a magic phrase in our language,” said Rudman. “And it closed more than 75 years ago! Never has so much great jazz been made in one nightclub, and its glossy productions had a huge impact on musical theater.”

To give people an idea of what to expect, Ferguson added, “We’ll want to recreate the early Ellington sound using some of his own arrangements, but we’ll also hint at what Ellington was destined to become a bit later on. And I’m looking forward to arranging music by composer Harold Arlen as well. These men are giants.”

The Hanna Theatre is located at 2067 East 14th Street in downtown Cleveland.  General tickets are priced at $25-$50. Tickets are available through the Playhouse Square Box Office at (216) 241-6000.

“Curtain Up at the Cotton Club” is presented as part of “The Song Is You!” concert and cabaret season produced each year by The Musical Theater Project at a variety of locations. For more information about The Musical Theater Project, visit our website at