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The Jitterbug Club

Jenny Toune

ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL: The electric atmosphere of this contemporary Harlem jazz club that jumps and jives like it’s 1933 was considerably reduced by a lack of seating and poor sightlines.
The Jitterbug Club
Throw in a couple of alligators and Jon Voigt, maybe a banjo or two and a slow crawl of a river, and you could be right back in the speakeasies of the Bayous. Unfortunately even in the roughest speakeasy there were seats for the patrons. But not in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room.

Only half the audience were provided with bottom supports, the rest having to sit on the floor, dodging spilled red wine and upturned glasses. And when those closest to the front were encouraged to ‘dance’ (think stand and sway – effectively blocking the view for everyone else), the showboat sunk back into the swamps of the Mississippi and drowned in its own bad audience management.

Which was a shame, because there’s talent in them thar artistes. Mojo Juju and the Snake Oil Merchants, together with MC James Grim and the Jitterbeetles chorus line have distilled contemporary cabaret through a still of good moonshine. Think Weimar Cabaret, juke joints of the Deep South, and the Harlem jazz clubs of the 1930’s; throw in a mix of burlesque, and enough titillation and tap dancing to have you searching amongst feathered fans and tattoos for more surprises, and you’ll be doing the cakewalk right back to the Cotton Club, or shaking your tush at the stage door of the Apollo Theatre.

There’s a lot to be said for authenticity, and The Jitterbug Club have certainly captured the vibe of Thirties’ jive, giving it their own brilliant shoe shine. But this particular Harlem shuffle tripped up because many couldn’t see the show in its entirety – I guess life isn’t always a cabaret.

The Jitterbug Club
The Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre
June 24 – 25

Adelaide Cabaret Festival
June 10 – 25

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Jenny Toune graduated from the TAFE Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing program with the Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry, and she has had short stories, poetry and arts reviews published in Australia and the USA for the past five years. She was also a SA State Poetry Slam Finalist in 2008 and 2010. She wrote, co-directed and choreographed the 2009 contemporary dance theatre production, An Urban Jungle Tale; and has written and performed a tap dance/spoken word show as a featured artist at Melbourne’s Overload Festival 2009, and at Rebelslam, Murray Bridge 2010. Jenny is currently torn between performing in her spoken word/dance shows and finishing her manuscript.