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 during the era of Jim Crow. Also unearthed is the legend of Leon Claxton, a brave African-American showman who left an extraordinary entertainment legacy despite the insurmountable odds against him and his dreams.
A magical journey into the complexities of American entertainment, race history and family, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana is a compelling 3-part documentary film series produced by director Leslie Cunningham who shines a spotlight on her grandfather’s tent theatre presentation of Black and Cuban music, dance and comedy that played Royal American Shows’ World’s Largest Carnival Midway for nearly four decades in the early-to mid-20th century.
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.