Hollywood, CA — Wow! Singing, clapping and grinning ear to ear, and I’m talking about the audience. Ain’t Misbehavin’ the Fats Waller Musical Show is a breath of fresh air in a time of uncertainty. It’s a wonderful way to spend an evening, with performers giving their all and the audience enjoying every minute.
It’s not hard to describe the impact the singing and dancing had on the audience because it seemed everyone was of one accord. The individual solos, and the harmony when two or more of the cast members sang together was the perfect blend of talent, passion and showmanship.
First, about the man Fats Waller born Thomas Wright Waller in New York City 1904.
The son of a preacher, Waller was trained in the classics but at a young age he gravitated towards the music and sounds of the streets of Harlem. Said to have become one of the best stride piano players ever, Waller began playing for rent parties, and made a name for himself on Tin Pan Alley, where he sold many of his songs for next to nothing. He died at the age of 39 after writing over 500 songs, many unearthed by the creators of Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Waller was a robust man, with a great sense of humor that matched his talent well. To see him in action, check him out on You Tube. His performances will give you an idea of the energy, great singing, and laughter that’s in store for you in the fabulous musical Ain’t Misbehavin’. You will quickly become a fan of Waller and his music.
The five member cast consists of Eugene Barry-Hill, who was part of the original cast of the Broadway production, “The Lion King.” Armelia McQueen, who starred in the original cast of Broadway’s Ain’t Misbehavin’and Doug Eskew, who has performed on and off Broadway in such plays as “The Color Purple,” and “Five Guys Named Moe.” Roz Ryan has extensive stage credits, but many people will recall her performances in television’s “Amen” and as Anthony Anderson’s mother on “All About the Andersons” Ryan enjoys a very successful television career. Debra Walton is direct from a four-month stint with the P.T. Barnum Circus headlining as the Oldest Woman in the World of “Barnum” the musical.
Their delightfully colorful performances rock the house. The staging is simple, yet elegant, reflective of a time when life was hard, music was more than an escape, and in spite of everything Black folks knew how to have a good time.
The audience got an opportunity to share in the fun with such songs as “Fat and Greasy” and gave a standing ovation for “Black and Blue” a song about the pain of racism. Folks were dancing in their seats to This Joint Is Jumpin’. And talk about sexy, “Honeysuckle Rose” (Doug & Roz) and “Squeeze Me” (Armelia) leave very little to the audience’s imagination when they sing about love and other things. “The Viper’s Drag; The Reefer Song” (Eugene) was naughty and mesmerizing. To be honest nearly every song performed by these great artists made an emotional impact on the audience. People truly had a great time.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Musical Show runs at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown L.A. from now until May 31st. For ticket information and showtimes visit www.centertheatregroup.org. The website also features clips of the show, and interviews with the performers.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a great way to spend an evening or afternoon.
Don’t miss this wonderful musical.
– Gail Choice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.