Story | Trailer



Brown-skin showgirls, whites-only audiences, and the brave African-American showman who left an extraordinary legacy, despite the insurmountable odds against him and his dreams. 


Step right up, folks, the last remaining great troupers are finally telling their stories about one of America's most successful traveling shows that broke carnival records across the U.S. and Western Canada, birthed American music icons, and significantly impacted Black and Latin entertainment in ways that still resonate with wonder today. 

JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana is a compelling feature-length documentary film narrated by filmmaker Leslie Cunningham who takes viewers on a personal tour of her grandfather's iconic Black and Cuban carnival revue that rose above the segregated stage to become the leading outdoor attraction during Jim Crow. Also unearthed is the life and lore of producer Leon Claxton, a brave African-American showman who leaves an extraordinary entertainment legacy despite the insurmountable odds against him and his dreams. 

Yet, when social revolutions break out in the U.S. and Cuba, and the heir to the “Harlem in Havana” throne is taken away in haste, it becomes increasingly harder for Claxton to outmaneuver the realities that threaten his show’s existence. 

The cast is led by main characters Shirley Bates, a former lead dancer on the show in the 1940’s, and her son, John, who was raised on the show and drove stakes with the tent-hands in the 1950s. As Claxton family, their lives were deeply affected by Claxton's life and work, and their exclusive on-camera interviews add layers to this epic story. However, JIG SHOW is not just about family, but triumphs, connections and weaving across cultural divides. Above all else, Leslie is on a mission to preserve her family's legacy, before the memories die with a generation. 

A magical journey into the complexities of American entertainment, race history and family legacy, JIG SHOW combines breathtaking show photographs, rarely seen historical clips and beautiful b-roll of the city of Tampa highlighting where Claxton and Harlem in Havana were headquartered for nearly 40 years. The film features on-interviews with a colorful cast of former performers, past patrons, historians and academics who bring their critical perspective to the conversation. Classic and new music honor the beloved showman, voluptuous brown-skin showgirls and tenacious entertainers of color who bravely showcased their talents on the front-line of racial polarization and left an indelible mark on entertainment around the globe. 

Coming Spring 2020.