May Columns

AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'

This Fats Waller musical show premiered off-Broadway in February 1978, moved onto Broadway and thence to London and other cities. With a cast of five singers, a basic set, no story-line and minimal dialogue, the emphasis is on the songs, a total of 29 associated with or composed by Fats Waller. All the standard Waller songs are there -- "Honeysuckle Rose," "Black and Blue," "Squeeze Me," and the title song, plus numbers less frequently heard, like "The Ladies Who Sing With The Band," "Loungin' At The Waldorf" and "Yacht Club Swing," as well as vocal versions of "The Jitterbug Waltz" and "Handful of Keys."

On April 9, the Oxfordshire Touring Theatre Company ("making BIG THEATRE in small spaces") appeared at the Memorial Hall in the small village of Shrivenham, not far from Oxford, part of its month long tour with Ain't Misbehavin'. and was enthusiastically greeted by a capacity audience of just over one hundred. One can only admire the professionalism of this small company, producing such a quality version of this musical. The five singers (two male, three female) performed well, ably accompanied by three young musicians -- Dominic Harlan, piano and musical director, Dan Hughes, clarinet and alto, and Phil Clark, drums. Academically trained and playing from music, the trio nevertheless had a feeling for the notes they were playing.

Anything which helps to keep the music of Fats Waller before the public merits praise, and especially so when, as in this case, it is performed so well. (As I left the hall a youngster aged about 11 was busy writing her opinion in the comments book provided. I am sure it was complimentary!)

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May 2008 issue | © 2008 The Mississippi Rag

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