Interview: A STRANGE LOOP's James Jackson Jr Makes His Cabaret 'Debut' at Pangea

Obie Award-winner James Jackson explores whose story "is allowed to be told" in a satirical Pride month kickoff show on 6/1

By: May. 23, 2024
Interview: A STRANGE LOOP's James Jackson Jr Makes His Cabaret 'Debut' at Pangea
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Obie Award-winner James Jackson, Jr., most recently seen in Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop and White Girl in Danger, is no newcomer to cabaret. However, on Saturday June 1st, 9:30 pm and Sunday June 2nd at 7 pm at Pangea in the East Village, the singer will be making his “debut” all over again. Cabaret…Debut is a satirical exploration of Jackson’s 15-year-old cabaret career. It showcases Jackson’s “Classic (but completely brand new) stylings of Broadway, soul, folk, & the popular lesbian hits that made him the cabaret diva...he hopes to someday be.”

We spoke about how his time acting in A Strange Loop has informed his cabaret work, and vice-verse, what inspired Cabaret...Debut, and what’s coming up next for him.  

How would you describe your upcoming show at Pangea?

It’s my first time doing anything like this in a year or so — Cabaret…Debut is a chance to honor that weird exchange where we come back into small spaces, turn off the lights, tell some stories, and sing some songs… with the scent of French fries and martinis wafting through the air.

Where did the idea for this show come from?

Last year I was nominated for an award for “Best Cabaret Debut,” after 15 yeas of writing, creating, and producing my own cabaret act in New York City (and all over the country). My therapist will tell you, I immediately got stuck on the word “Debut”, and whose story gets told, is allowed to be told, or is acknowledged.  I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done. Really proud. The fact that I would let someone else’s words make me feel diminished or erased without even enjoying the nomination seemed like something I could only sort out by creating more art.

How do you feel like your involvement in A Strange Loop and White Girl in Danger have informed your cabaret act? How do you feel about the connection between cabaret and musical theater acting, in general?

Both shows dealt with erasure and whose story gets to be told. They deal with who is typically at the center of the story. I enjoyed working on both for as long as I did because they mirrored much of what I felt in my own career. My younger musical theater career was about me trying to fit into what some producer or person-at-the-helm “might” want. When I started creating, writing, and producing my own work as a cabaret artist 15 years ago, I immediately became a better and more self-assured musical theater performer. A better relationship between me and the person out there in the dark receiving the story — that’s what I got. I also know now what I will put up with. I know what kind of collaborator I am, and what I am worth. Being told “No” enough will do that. For years, with A Strange Loop, we were told “This could never be on Broadway”—and then look at what happened. I made Broadway very intimate for myself. I knew how important these stories were for someone out there in the dark.

What are you most looking forward to about performing Cabaret…Debut at Pangea?

A collective step-touch in a low-lit room in the East Village and listening to Elliot Roth play the piano. It’s pretty simple. Oh, and laughter. Please laugh…if you want.

What have you been listening to lately?

I’m on an interesting diet of Heart, because Ann & Nancy Wilson are touring and that’s frontpage news in our house, Tracy Chapman, which leads back to Joan Armatrading, Brandy Clark because her lyrics can be heartbreaking, and I can’t stop listening to the Stererophonic soundtrack. We recently thought of coming up with a tribute band called Meatwood Flack. Just Fleetwood Mac covers mixed with Meatloaf and a side of Roberta Flack.

What’s coming up next for you?

June 7th, I’ll be singing a few songs at Friday Night Pride, which is an LGBTQIA+ Pride celebration in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester.

June 16th, I’ll be performing a very special solo show in Provincetown, Massachusetts at The Wilde at The Gifford House celebrating Juneteenth. I’m putting together a show honoring some of the amazing Black performers who have performed in Provincetown over the past century like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, Grace Jones, John Lee Hooker, Paul Robeson, and even The Fisk Jubilee Singers. It’s going to be a very special event.

Then I’ll be back at The Post Office Cabaret in Provincetown in August and October.

Tickets to see Cabaret...Debut on June 1st at 9:30 pm and Sunday June 2nd at 7 pm in NYC are available on Pangea’s website.

Visit James Jackson Jr.’s website,, for more.

Get tickets to the June 16th show in Provincetown, MA at and follow @JuneteenthPtown on Instagram.

Header photo credit: L Morgan Lee (BluPhoto)


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