Cast members doug Eskew (L) and Armelia McQueen (R) pose during the opening night party for “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at the CTG/Ahmanson Theatre on April 24, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.Â
Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging
The 1978 Tony Award-winning musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ introduced a genre that still captures the merriment of audiences in a time when millions are reeling from the pangs of escalating financial woes and threats of global disarray. This homage to the works of Thomas “Fats Waller, a notable creator of African American descent, contributed in a major way to the popular music fabric of Western Civilization that is often skipped over in discussions of contributors to America’s cultural heritage.
The two-hour plus revue envelops you in a blanket of songs and sayings like ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” which was recorded by Waller in 1922, “The Joint is Jumpin,” “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Black and Blue.”
In the second half of the show, it is noted Waller, a classically trained pianist, could churn out songs at the drop of a hat, then end up selling them for nearly nothing or a bottle of booze. All too familiar with Tin Pan Alley, the New York City music hub that thrived during the Harlem Renaissance, the rotund pianist learned how to play the game with the music publishers that would buy his music for much less than it was worth, Wall acquired the knack of reworking his music so he could sell it to more than one of the shystie publishers, being aware that he was not getting the money or credit he deserved.
There’s no heavy plot, like “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the introspective music drama about Jelly Rolls Morton. In fact, if all you want is insight into Fats Waller-the man, forget it. His music sums it all up. There’s over 30 songs, presented by a cast of five veteran talents that make “Ain’t Misbehavin” an entertaining experience.
In addition to wonderful choreography by the original choreographer, Arthur Faria, the spirit of the production that garnered Tonys for Nell Carter and Co-Conceiver and Director Richard Maltby, who is back for this 30th Anniversary production along with cast member Armelia Queen. She is another reason why you should catch this production. After 30 years, Ms Queen still delivers. Roz Ryan, known to many as Amelia Hetebrink on the TV show, “Amen,” fits her role like a sleek driving glove, having replaced Nell Carter on Broadway. Doug Eskew and Eugene Barry-Hill bring the verve and style needed for the tongue-in-cheek musical numbers on topics that deal with sex, drugs and roof raising party’s that warrant the police. Besides, being consummate performers, the men are also vets of National Tours of “Ain’t Misbehavin.”
Friday’s Opening Night Performance brought past performers that included Original Broadway Cast member and Tony Award nominee Charlayne Woodard and Anita Pointer of the Pointer Sisters, who toured with the musical. Debra Walton reprises Woodard’s role. “I am thrilled with the energy Debra brings. She’s exciting to watch, so is the whole cast,” stated Woodard.
A major reason to see Ain’t Misbehavin”- is to see firsthand how it chronicles the roots of today’s R&B and Hip-Hop music. Grab at least one young hip-hop expert and check out “Ain’t Misbavin.” See and hear how African-Americans as far back as the Harlem Renaissance, dealt with many of the themes we hear in the music of today in a musically refreshing manner.
The Center Theatre Group is presenting “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Matinees 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Thursdays, May 21 and May 28; and no 6:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, May 31. The run ends May 31. Tickets are $20 to $100. For more information (213) 628- 2772 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org-LWO