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, birthed music icons, and significantly impacted Black entertainment during Jim Crow- Harlem in Havana! In this untold triumph of the spirit story, Claxton and his brown-skin troupe break barriers and perform for “Whites only” audiences, aptly competing for box office to have the best outdoor attraction in North America, and win the hearts of a changing pop culture. But with social revolutions in the U.S. and Cuba, and a startling family secret, what would be the fate of Harlem in Havana, one of the greatest variety shows of our time?
Leslie is joined by a colorful cast of former performers and past patrons who witnessed the spectacle and share their memories. Leading the cast are Shirley Bates (Leslie's grandmother and the former lead dancer on the show in the 1940’s), and her son, John Cunningham (Leslie’s father), 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.
Academics and carnival historians bring their critical perspectives to the conversation in the educational film document that 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. Classic and new Hip Hop music honor the bumpy nights and long rides on train car #66, and the passion of the voluptuous showgirls and 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.
Ultimately, JIG SHOW is a celebration of our multifaceted past and a path for the descendants of African and Latino-Americans to look back, embrace the past, and liberate their own stories from historical amnesia.