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Ain't Misbehavin'

a Musical Revue
by based on the Music of "Fats" Waller

COMPANY : Atlanta Lyric Theatre
VENUE : The Strand
ID# 4246

SHOWING : February 17, 2012 - March 04, 2012



Music by Thomas “Fats” Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin’, a Tony Award-winning celebration of the music of Thomas “Fats” Waller. An ensemble of energetic and irresistible performers and the hottest jazz band in town will bring down the house with a musical parade of thirty of Waller’s greatest hits. A joyously creative songwriter of the 1920s and 30s, Fats Waller penned over 400 songs in his career – many of which have entered the classic repertoire of jazz standards that are still being performed today. Ain’t Misbehavin’ pays tribute to his legacy and music, and includes the ever popular songs: “The Jitterbug Waltz,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” “‘T’Ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Find Out What They Like,” and “Your Feets Too Big.”

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A "Phat" Wallow
by Dedalus
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
This Joint is Jumpin’!

Welcome to the world of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, a prolific jazz pianist and songwriter whose inimitable style will be recognizable to almost everyone. “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is the 1978 revue that showcases some of his most recognizable tunes, and Atlanta Lyric Theatre has put together a terrific production that sends us on a high-octane rocket trip into the past.

We’re in a Harlem nightclub, anytime in the thirties or forties, and “Fats” himself is at the keyboard. A quintet of singers sashays and belts and coos and seduces us with ballads and dances and most exquisite wallows in nostalgia and high energy. A fortunate few in the audience gets to watch from an array of tables in the enlarged pit, but even the rest of us are made to feel like intimate guests, despite the cavernous reaches of Marietta’s Strand Theatre.

Just as a sampler, we get the all-too familiar title song, “Honeysuckle Rose” drained of its Willie-Nelson twang, “Black and Blue” in exquisite five-part harmony, a fast and sleazy “Fat and Greasy,” an angry (but playful) “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” an hilarious “Cash for your Trash,” and a bounce-off-the-walls and jump-for-joy “This Joint is Jumpin’,” And this is only a small bitsy part of the total treats on tap for the lucky many who venture Marietta-ward for this show.

This is, by far, the best production I’ve seen by Atlanta Lyric, and, by even farther, the best ensemble I’ve seen in any musical for quite some time. D. Woods, Eric Moore, Kenya Hamilton, Jevares C. Myrick, and Kayce Grogan-Wallace all have their moments in the spotlight, but they’re never as good as when they’re on stage together, in various pairings or group numbers. Their voices blend beautifully, and, combined, they are the singular definition of “greater than the sum of its parts” casting.

Add to the mix a marvelous orchestra led by conductor Brandt Blocker and on-stage pianist Andrew Fazackerly, all of whom deserve their share of the inevitable accolades in store. Mr. Fazackerly not only plays the piano like a master (or a lover), he adds his own moments of wit and character to this theatrical “waller” in jazz and ragtime and stride. Ricardo Aponte has done a marvelous job of staging and choreographing the ensemble, and all the creative elements click like a roomful of snapping fingers.

Bradley Bergeron has put together a seedily elegant night club, smoky and hazy one moment, blue and sorrowful the next. This is one of the best-looking shows I’ve seen at the Strand, and Mr. Bergeron has made excellent use of the not-too-wide, perhaps-too-tall area. Vertical lines done in old brick and haze compete with faux-deco trimmings that all evoke just-past-its-prime Harlem.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t as familiar with this show as I should have been, and more familiar with Waller’s music than I thought. I’ve heard many of these songs by other artists (the aforementioned Willie Nelson, Mandy Patinkin, Spider Saloff, even the late great Steve Goodman) without realizing their provenance, and here delighted in hearing (and seeing) them performed in a unified style that can only be described as a “phat wallow,” if you’ll forgive the out-of-period slang. The first thing I did after seeing the show was order the CD of the 1978 cast, just to relive all those wonderful moments.

So, nothing more needs to be said. I loved this show, it pretends to be nothing other than the revue it is (thank goodness no attempt was made to shoehorn a stupid plot onto the songs). I had a most excellent time, and “I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed” that you will too! Trust me! After all, It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie!

-- Brad Rudy (BK



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