'Ain't Misbehavin'' does Fats Waller's legacy justice


"Ain't Misbehavin' " may have you shaking your head in disbelief that so many great songs could have been written, or made famous by, one performer. Stage Door Entertainment and Super Summer Theatre's production at Spring Mountain Ranch succeeds in giving us an expert feel for the genius that was Thomas "Fats" Waller.

Three women, two men, and an onstage band of seven musicians perform, without plot, nearly three dozen songs. The tunes, a product of the Harlem Swing era, are often playful, yet sometimes surprising in the depth of their sorrow. The lyrics (by an assortment of brilliant writers, including Waller) are among the best ever heard in a modern American musical. My favorite: "Lounging at the Waldorf," in which a singer warns musicians who want to play the famous hotel to: "Don't rock!/ They like jazz, but in small doses/ No shock Bop!/ Or you could cause thrombosis!"

Or maybe it's the World War II ditty in which a woman laments: "I'll be happy when the nylons bloom again/ Cotton is monotonous to men/ Only way to keep affection fresh:/ Get some mesh for your flesh!"

Director Terrence Williams mixes well the show's tones. The enormously likable performers -- Wallace Broadnax, Barron Coleman, Buffie Lucas, Rachale Marie and Dominique Stewart -- are of different shapes, types and expertise. But they all communicate the sensual, sardonic and soulful attitudes needed to put these numbers over. Not only do they have marvelous voices, they know how to sell.

Williams creates a simple but effective set (featuring a "fake" stage bordered by piano keys) and elicits a myriad of visually pleasing designs from light chief Michelle Harvey.

Unfortunately, the choreography by Audrey Boistol feels borrowed. Some novelty songs that cry out for clever movement -- such as "The Viper's Drag" and "Your Feets Too Big" -- are uninspired.

But the evening does Waller justice. It's the sort of revue that may compel you to immediately seek out the original Broadway cast recording.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

 

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