|Caption: Roz Ryan stars in “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, The Fats Waller Musical Show, at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. The 30th Anniversary exclusive Center Theatre Group engagement continues through May 31, 2009.
Photo by Craig Swhwartz
This past weekend I thought I was just going to see a musical play but little did I know I was in store for a full out concert performance.
“Ain’t Misbehavin”, which pays tribute to one of America’s true originals, Thomas “Fats” Waller, was an unbelievable concert experience that I would recommend for any fan of musical plays. The charismatic songwriter, singer, pianist and superb entertainer from the 1920s and 30s, may have never lived to see the lasting affect of his music but I guarantee he is smiling from his grave.
One very important reason “Ain’t Misbehavin” is such a pleasurable experience is the beautiful voice and performance of songstress Roz Ryan. Roz Ryan is a native of Detroit, Michigan and has been performing on and off Broadway for over 30 years.
Many people might recognize Roz Ryan from television, as she is an accomplished actress appearing on numerous sitcoms throughout the years. Ryan has appeared in sitcoms such as “Amen” where she played Amelia Heterbrink, and also the sitcom “Good News” where she played Mrs. Dixon. In addition to those roles, Ryan has also played opposite John Amos as “Flo Anderson” on the hit WB series “ALL ABOUT THE ANDERSONS” and as Loretta McKee on “JAG”.
Roz Ryan’s film work includes Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club,” “Went to Coney Island”, Disney’s Animated Feature “Hercules,” (the voice of Thalia), the Hercules television cartoon series on ABC and Mrs. William’s in “Nikita Blues”, a film produced by Roz Ryan and Marc Cayceen. In 2005, she was “Mae Palmer” on The Showtime series “BARBERSHOP”, The Landlady in Chris Rocks 2007 hit “I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE”, Mother Candace in the feature film “Divine Intervention” and the voice of “Bubbie” in Cartoon Networks “THE MARVELOUS MISADVENTURES OF FLAPJACK.”
Roz Ryan’s Broadway credits include, “DREAMGIRLS” (the role of Effie White), “AIN’T MISBEHAVIN,” (the role of Nell Carter) “CHICAGO THE MUSICAL,” (the role of Matron Mama Morton) “ONE MO TIME” (The role of Bertha) and Madison Square Gardens” A CHRISTMAS CAROL” (the role of The Ghost Of Christmas Present). Ms Ryan is the only woman to ever perform that role.
Additional theater credits include the Role of Bloody Mary in the musical South Pacific in Thailand, Australia and China. She also appeared in Blues in The Night, for which Ms. Ryan was awarded both the Carbonell and Zoni Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Furthermore, Ryan has starred in The Old Settler, Seven Guitars, and Cole Porter Request the Pleasure, in which she gave another award winning performance receiving the Carbonell Award for Best Supporting Actress. Roz Ryan has also served as a judge on “IRON CHEF AMERICA.”
Regardless of how you may have heard of Roz Ryan, I am here to tell you that she is the real deal in every aspect. Roz Ryan is the definition of a triple threat as far as the entertainment industry is concerned. She is an actress, singer, recording artist, nightclub and concert performer.
Fats Waller’s music carries a rare timeless appeal, which is why Roz Ryan was the perfect selection to interpret Waller’s tunes. She is genuinely charismatic and carries her own timeless persona that exudes on and off stage.
To understand today’s popular sound you have to first understand where music came from. “Ain’t Misbehaving” should be played in all schools because it is an entertaining history lesson. I felt like I was in a time machine taking me back to the golden era that will forever be remembered as the Harlem Renaissance. This was an era where African American poets, musician, artists, and scholarly individuals put forth their best efforts and delivered unforgettable compositions that would help transcend American and worldly culture forever.
I attended the “Ain’t Misbehanvin” musical with my mother and grandmother and we all agreed after seeing Roz Ryan in action that her voice reined supreme. Throughout Ryan’s performance of “Ain’t Misbehavin” she literally gave me goose bumps as her voice was so engaging and elegant. Unlike your average everyday singer, Roz Ryan’s voice carries an undeniable emotion that demands a positive audience reaction. I never heard Fatz Waller live but it’s hard for me to believe his tunes ever sounded as good as they did during Roz Ryan’s performance of “Ain’t Misbehavin”. If they ever make an official remix project of Fatz Waller’s music, I’m campaigning for Roz Ryan to get dibs on the first single.
I shared my experience with Roz Ryan during a phone interview and she agreed that, “One of the best things about this show is a lot of people are bringing their mothers and their grandmothers and they can identify with this music. I heard some people talking…I was on the escalator at the theatre…and I was on my way to my car and these people did not know it was me. They were talking about how wonderful the show was and it was a mother, a grandmother and a son. The kid was asking questions and the grandmother was answering them about the era and the music and when big band music started. It was really an amazing conversation and I was ease dropping like a big dog”.
I also asked Roz Ryan what advice she would give to youngsters looking to make it in the business and she said, “to always have a plan B. If plan A doesn’t work go to plan B and cultivate until plan A works.” She also said, “this is not a fluke, it’s a lifestyle and it’s a very strange lifestyle and there is a price you pay for it but the key to it is not to be an overnight success, the key to it is longevity. The key is to be a triple threat and be able to work in this industry in every capacity, in theatre, television, movies, cartoons or whatever it is just be able to bounce around and do it all”.
“Ain’t Misbehavin” was conceived and directed by Richard Maltby, Jr. The cast includes Eugene Barry-Hill, Doug Eskew, Armelia McQueen (who was in the original cast), Roz Ryan and Debra Walton. Choreography is by Arthur Faria, who staged the original production. The music director is William McDaniel.
“Ain’t Misbehavin”, has been playing at the Ahmason Theatre since the beginning of April and will continue to run until the end of the May. This is an exclusive Center Theatre Group engagement that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Tony-winning revue.