“Ain’t Misbehavin” Lets The Music Do The Talking

Ain't Misbehavin' Photo.jpgBy Jaime Toscano — 11/21/2011
The Lyric Stage Company’s production of the Fats Waller musical “Ain’t Misbehavin” was certainly a blast from the past. The 5-actor-cast put on a quite a show, keeping the audience’s attention from start to finish with their spunk, energy and amazing voices.
“Ain’t Misbehavin” is based on the musical soul of 1930s Harlem. Although there is no consistent storyline, the show brings to life Fats Waller’s world.
Thomas “Fats” Waller was an African American jazz pianist, organist, composer, and comedic entertainer. He was born in New York City. He had studied classical piano and organ before apprenticing himself to legendary Harlem stride pianist James P. Johnson. Waller was an excellent pianist but his songwriting and personality overshadowed his playing. Among his most remembered songs are “Squeeze Me,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,””Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Jitterbug Waltz.” All of these songs were incorporated into the performance.
The musical consisted of two acts with multiple songs in each act.There was very little dialogue and over 30 musical numbers. The cast clearly represented one of the most popular musical figures during the Golden Age of jazz. The simple yet elegant nightclub scene captured the era’s moods and reflected Waller’s view of life that it is a journey meant for pleasure and play.
The charismatic cast managed to involve the crowd as best it could. In return audience members responded well with loud applause and plenty of laughter. “We’re breaking down the 4th wall,” said actor-singer Davron S. Monroe during the audience-performer talkback after the show’s ending. “It helps the show along.”
Monroe played himself as a young, charming ladies man whom all the women drooled over. “It’s never the same show because the audience is never the same,” Calvin Braxton added. He also played himself as a quirky, fun-loving music man.
The lack of narrative string made this performance so different. It emphasized a time when everything was expressed through song. The performers hit home with the finale which consisted of 7 different musical numbers, including “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and “I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed.”
“Ain’t Misbehavin” runs for a month starting November 17th at The Lyrics Stage Company of Boston.