In Cool Papa’s Party, director and author Thomas W. Jones II exhumes the life and times of showbiz legend and original hipster Sammy Davis, Jr. This séance of a Vegas variety show is both a charming love letter from one entertainer to another and a fast-paced history play that sometimes leaves contemporary audiences—strangers to hepcats in sharkskin suits sipping martinis at the Flamingo—in the dark. The musical employs a litany of historical references and period lingo, so strangers to Vegas will find Cool Papa’s street-smart narrative as hard to follow as his mercurial love life. Still, the seven capable cast members deliver knockout performances that almost make the audience forget they’re watching all this in a converted warehouse in Alexandria. Jones’ sprawling musical smartly touches on sophisticated national and personal identity issues, like second-class citizenship and an American brand of patriotism wrapped in idolatry and bigotry.
COOL PAPA’S PARTY PLAYS FRIDAYS to SUNDAYS, to MARCH 15, AT METROSTAGE, 1201 N. ROYAL ST., ALEXANDRIA. $45. (703) 548-9044.