San Diego, CA---Fats Waller, best known for his "Ain't Misbehavin'", "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Jitterbug Waltz" among others, introduced the score for "Ain't Misbehavin'" in his 1929 Broadway hit "Hot Chocolates" which featured Louis Armstrong. His good friend Andy Razaf wrote the lyrics. In 1934, Fats was introduced to George Gershwin, who was so impressed with the young man's piano playing and singing that he arranged for Waller to record with Victor Records, of which he was an executive.
Until his untimely death in 1943, Waller continued to use Victor as his main recording outlet. Between 1934 and 1942, Waller and his group, Fats Waller and his Rhythm, recorded about 400 sides, well over half of his recorded output. (Source: "Fats Waller and his Rhythm" by Mike Donovan.)
It's no secret why Waller's music is so successful as to have a 1978 Broadway musical revue showcasing his tunes. As an accomplished musician, his name will be forever etched as part of the Harlem/Cotton Club Renaissance of the early twentieth century. It's also no coincidence that it was called "Ain't Misbehavin'", based on an idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr.
It starred Nell Carter, who won the Tony Award for best actress while the show itself won for best musical. It ran for 1,600 performances. Every now and then, it is produced in our fair city and surrounding counties. The last time it was produced on San Diego stages was in 2007 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre downtown.
San Diego Musical Theatre is mounting this Tony Award-winning show through Oct. 13th at the North Park Birch Theatre starring Rufus Bonds. Jr. as Ken, who along with Sylvia MacCalla’s Nell (as in Nell Carter) squeeze the most out of one of the more popular and probably best recognized, “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Mean To Me”. The audience ate it up.
Director/Choreographer Ron Kellum, Don Le Master Resident Musical Director, and Lanny Hartley (Conductor/pianist) along with the “Ain’t Misbehavin’’ band with Gregg McKinney on Bass, David Burnett and Earl Vaults on Reeds, John Meyers on Trombone, Julian Davis on Trumpet and Wreckless Watson (excellent) on drums, had the audience keeping the beat with their heads and tapping their toes to the rhythms of the music, as well they should.
At the top of the second act, the band gave us an indication of just what they could do on their own as they individually performed in turn. Listening to and watching Wreckless Watson on Drums I couldn’t help thinking that all those lessons and jam sessions paid off.
Some of the most memorable numbers for this reviewer's included Bond’s "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Your Feets Too Big." Bonds, whose personality sweeps across the stage from side to side as does his wide and engaging smile, not to mention his lusty baritone voice, is such a strong presence.
David La Marr’s Andre, whose lithe body is perfect for his great number in Act 2, "The Viper Drag", (don’t be lured into taking a drag from that reefer either) and “T'ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I do”. “What Did I Do to Get So Black and Blue” performed perfectly by the whole company is another keeper. Janelle Lynn Randall’s Charlaine’s “Keepin’ Out of Mischief” is a sleeper but “The Yacht Club Song” is a hoot.
(Title Song and opening number) "Ain't Misbehavin'" is filled with a healthy dose of music from the past and the costumes coordinated by Janet Pitcher are picture perfect for the times. Matt Novotny’s lighting keeps the production in focus and the small cabaret set (no credit) is perfect for this snappy musical revue. The show is almost ready to wrap up and you won’t want to miss it.
If you're in the mood for "Lookin' Good but Feelin' Bad," "Ladies Who Swing with the Band," "Lounging at the Waldorf" (one of my favorites), "Feeling I'm Falling," "Joint is Jumpin'", “Two Sleepy People”, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and finally Amber Mercomes’ (Armelia) “Squeeze Me”, head to North Park and enjoy.
All in all, it’s a fun evening of theatre.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Oct 13th
Organization: San Diego Musical Theatre
Production Type: Musical Revue
Where: 2891 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Ticket Prices: Start at $26.00
Venue: North Park Birch Theatre