54 Sings Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Music of Fats Waller

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54 Sings Ain’t Misbehavin’
The Music of Fats Waller

Feinstein’s/54Below, NYC, September 9, 2018

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Can it really be 40 years since the Tony Award-winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ exploded on Broadway? In this reunion concert celebrating the anniversary, three original stars, plus talent from other productions, brightly swung the music of American Songbook giant, Fats Waller, with plenty of pizzazz. Those three original stars—Charlayne Woodard, Ken Page, and André De Shields—brought the house down with their talent as the years melted away. On the distaff side, Woodard, youthfully elegant, knocked ’em dead with her only number of the evening, a slow, sensuous “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” (lyrics: Andy Razaf).

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The national tour’s Frenchie Davis testified with “Cash for Your Trash” (lyrics: Ed Kirkeby), while Cynthia Thomas, from Delaware Theatre Company, beguiled with “Squeeze Me” (lyrics: Clarence Williams). Towering above were performances by two magnificent entertainers, Page and De Shields. Page shone with “Honeysuckle Rose” (lyrics: Razaf) and killed with an extraordinary comic rendition of “Your Feets Too Big” (Ada Benson and Fred Fisher), filled with exquisite bits of business. De Shields, in top dramatic diva form, blew the roof off with the ”Viper’s Drag.

” Together, the two masters strutted their magical stuff with “Fat and Greasy” (Porter Grainger and Charlie Johnson).

Also performing were talents Johmaalya Adelekan, Rheaume Crenshaw, Tyrone Davis, Jr., and Zurin Villanueva from the Crossroads Theatre production and Tony Perry from the Delaware Theatre Company.

As an ensemble, their top-notch performances were handled skillfully on “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (with Harry Brooks; lyrics by Razaf), “Lookin’ Good but Feeling Bad” (lyrics Lester A.

Santly), and a poignant “Black and Blue” (with Brooks; lyrics Razaf), among many other classics. 54 Sings Ain’t Misbehavin’ was produced by Robert W. Schneider, and conceived by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., who directed, as he did the original production.

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Music director/pianist William Foster McDaniel played the original Luther Henderson arrangements.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.