Any review of the past shows you that some things -- cheese, for example -- age better than other, related things, such as butter.
A stop in "Cab Calloway's Cotton Club Revisited" -- a revue from the past now at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater -- bears out that old home truth. In his 75th year, Calloway is still, in some ways, Cab: In the old days, he stood for scat and bop and had to stand away from the microphone, his voice was so strong. He still stands for scat, bop and the hot life, and he still ought to stand away from the mike, but he doesn't -- maybe his voice-box is willing, but the ears are weak. In fairness, it should be added that the whole show seemed over-miked, especially for such an intimate room.
But while Cabell Calloway III still has his old sense of timing and his old moves, he is carrying a number of pounds and two score years and ten that he didn't have to worry about when he was making his name. His voice is still strong -- richer, even, heavier and darker, with only the occasional quaver or break when he pushes it too far.
At times (in "Minnie the Moocher," fortunately, and "Caledonia," both saved for his encore) if you closed your eyes it could almost be The Hi De Ho Man; but those moments were outweighed by his up-tempo "September Song" and "Old Man River" -- as if mocking age -- and, bracketed between them, "It Ain't Necessarily So," as if replaying the right-after-the-salad days when he defined Sportin' Life in "Porgy and Bess."
What has aged well, besides parts of Calloway, is Bunny Briggs, a consummate pro of a tap-dancer who will show you why his art is an art and why it's been around so long; odds are you've never seen anyone who can do it his way. Also, dancers Al Minns and Sugar Sullivan have aged well, and their fellow (though anonymous) Lindy Hoppers are working at it, while young for the show. Cynthia White, also young in a cast whose median age must qualify for the Golden Agers, is enjoyable in her medley of Fats Waller tunes when the sound system doesn't get in the way, and Timmie Rogers is funny at times while telling jokes and doing bits that must have been calculated to antagonize (not necessarily in order) blacks, guys, wives, mothers-in-law and women in general. That kind of material hasn't, in fact, aged very well at all.
Is it a good show? It depends: It's a pretty fair trip into the past, which doesn't always look or sound the way you may remember it or have it on records. It was always just show business anyway, right? But Cab didn't always lean on "When the Saints Go Marching In" as a closer, or on a mike throughout his show.
CAB CALLOWAY -- At the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater through Saturday night.