Café Society Swing at Theatre Royal Stratford East tells the story of Café Society, the racially-desegregated jazz club in New York, this year marks the 80th anniversary of when it first opened in Greenwich Village in December 1938.

Peter Gerald plays Barney Josephson / Reporter / Barkeep, and we caught up with him to find out more.

Café Society Swing is at Theatre Royal Stratford East 5th – 16th June 2018.

You’re appearing in Cafe Society Swing at Theatre Royal Stratford East what can you tell us about it? 

It’s a  great story told by some  of the very best blues and jazz singers and players from both sides of the pond. There’s nothing else like it. If you want to see and hear a great show with timeless tunes that’s played and sung by the best –  ‘Café Society Swing’ has it all.

Tell us a little about the real Cafe Society, which has inspired the show?

It was a real blues/jazz basement club in Greenwich Village, New York that was started in 1938 by a shoe salesman, Barney Josephson with a loan from his brother. It was the first racially integrated club in the USA and was responsible for the successes of Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Count Basie and many more. It was plagued by controversy. Its radical setup was portrayed by the press as an un-American. The performers and management were investigated by Congress during the Red Scare who saw it as a left-wing threat.

How has the show been developed? 

It started life as a concert with a great band and great singers. The story of the club was told by the show’s author and musical director, Alex Webb. It’s now grown into an evening of jazz theatre with a dramatic storyline.

How would you describe the characters you play? 

I play 3 characters during the show. It’s a chance for the story to be told from different angles. The first character is an investigative journalist who is trying to write a story and dish the dirt on Café Society. The next character tells the story from the Café’s side and finally I play Barney Josephson himself.

How are the band incorporated in to the show?

They ARE the Show. They are onstage throughout singin’ an playin’!

What can audiences expect when they come to see Cafe Society Swing?  

Expect a great story with great music.  It’s a show that packs a punch.

Photo credit Craig Brough.


Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly


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