THE MUSIC OF FATS WALLER BEGINS 42ND STREET MOON’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON.
MISBEHAVE IS A HIGH ENERGY CROWD PLEASER
42nd Street Moon celebrates their shining 25th Season with a trip back to Harlem in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and the music will bring you to your feet. "Ain't Misbehavin'," the 1978 Broadway musical conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz, revue celebrating both the Great American Fats Waller Songbook and the great American venues like the Cotton Club and Savoy Ballroom is now on stage at The Gateway Theatre through October 29th. 42nd Street Moon executive directors Daren A.C. Carollo, and Daniel Thomas are excited to have this party open their 25th season, “Fats Waller is one of the greatest entertainers to come out of the Great American Songbook,- and this show brings his music to life with all of the joy, humor and love that he himself brought to the stage. We’re especially lucky to have (director) Mr. Polk at the head of our team.”
Director/Choreographer Jeffrey Polk is currently working with an original Broadway cast member Ken Page on a production in Los Angeles, he says "I'm very excited to be part of the opening season for 42nd Street Moon with this amazing production team and stellar cast, Fats Waller was an extraordinary trendsetter as a writer, performer and recording artist. I look forward to seeing the audience go on this ride with us as we bring his music into the present day.” Polk has assembled an impressive cast of five local pros to bring Waller's music to stage. The two act two hour show opens in a classy night club designed by the creative Brian Watson with an on stage band under the keen direction of Dave Dobrusky. The opening song of course is the 1919 Fats Waller song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” it was a staple of 30’s Clubs and Ballrooms, where folks of any color of New York society paid tribute to the vocal divas and piano players who showcased swing music.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a musical revue, with 30 plus songs presented one after another with not much of a script between the numbers. There are some full throttle great tunes in this show that is a compendium of songs written by the incredible Fats Waller, a man who could play jazz piano like no other. But since there is no book to tie the tunes together, it falls to the director and cast to keep the energy and momentum at a peak level. The revue requires top-quality performers and musicians who are capable of performing each song so that it grabs and holds the audience’s attention. In general, this format has faded from popularity, replaced by the jukebox musical. Waller copyrighted more than 400 songs in his 39-year lifetime, and he recorded more than 100 songs in 1938 alone.
The 42nd St Moon production has an extraordinary cast of singers and performers who do not use microphones yet their voices fill the Gateway Theatre to the back row and beyond. The Company features the stunning Erica Richardson as “Nell,” the terrific Katrina Lauren McGraw as “Armelia,” the dynamic Ashley D. Gallo as “Charlaine,” the grand Aris-Allen Roberson as “Andre” and the always high-energy Branden 'Noel' Thomas as “Ken.” Song highlights include “The Viper’s Drag,” ”The Reefer Song,” “Squeeze Me,” along with the jitterbug dance number “How Ya Baby,” the powerhouse vaudeville flashback tune “The Ladies Who Sing with the Band,” and the stride piano-centered “Handful of Keys,” “Jitterbug Waltz” one of jazz’ icon songs ever written, to the madcap “This Joint is Jumpin’” that closes act one.
The audience roared with applause, often singing along, to the show’s second Act rousing hot dance numbers by Polk. The second act features a more sexy set of tunes. Each company member has their moment to shine in solos that include Waller hits, ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter,” “Two Sleepy People,” I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed,” “I Can’t Give You Anything Else But Love” and “It’s A Sin To Tell a Lie.” One undeniable star onstage is the music director and pianist Dobrusky, who pounds out the tunes with inspiring enthusiasm and skill.
Tickets at http://42ndstmoon.org Photos by Ben Krantz
The score brings you to your feet and the band has to be perfect and under music director/pianist Dobrusky, drummer Tim Vaughan, extraordinary bass player Amanda Wu and reed expert Nick Di Scala, who are on a stage in full view of the audience achieve that. The second act also brings all five performers in a hauntingly emotional rendition of Waller's racially charged "Black and Blue" co-composed with his frequent collaborator Harry Brooks.
Director Polk kept the pace rapid, and the choreography classic jazz hands and vaudeville interesting stage stompers. Brian Watson's stage level night club set, complete with a black and white painted floor is eye catching. Watson also crafted an integrated deco proscenium that reflected the classy light design of Maxx Kurzunski’s night club lighting with two side sets of spots and moody colors or blue and shaded red. Stage manager Kris Vecere kept the actors on stage for most of the show, and made sure all five hit their marks, including some audience entrances. The sound for this romp is all natural, no real mention of a sound designer on the production team. Dobrusky kept a perfect mix of the cast singing voices, you do see a stand mic but it is a prop for that classic radio feel for a few songs.
The music of Fats Waller is high-energy joyous, sassy, tearful and tender, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a musical bash of Harlem’s best Renaissance swing music. I agree with the production team that this is the perfect show to open 42nd St Moon 25th Silver Jubilee Season. 42nd Street Moon’s season will continue with the holiday favorite The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon that opens December 6, 2017. March 2018 will bring the Northern California Debut of Stephen Sondheim's rarely produced Saturday Night, book by brothers Julius and Philip Epstein. But in the meantime “It's A Sin To Tell a Lie” take a trip back to the music and dance of Fats Waller that will make you misbehave, clap, cheer and stand.
42nd Street Moon Presents
A beloved celebration of the music of Fats Waller, Ain’t Misbehavin’ was originally conceived by Murry Horwitz and Tony Award-winner Richard Maltby, Jr.
Directed and Choreographed by Jeffrey Polk
Music Direction by
MUST CLOSE OCTOBER 29th
Erica Richardson, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Ashley D. Gallo,
Aris-Allen Roberson and Branden 'Noel' Thomas
The Gateway Theatre
215 Jackson Street, SF Ca
Two Hours with one intermission
Tickets and more info http://42ndstmoon.org/2016-2017-season/
Photos by Ben Krantz
42nd Street Moon’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ Directed and choreographed by Jeffrey Polk, with music direction by Dave Dobrusky. The creative team; Brian Watson as Set Designer, Maxx Kurzunski as Lighting Designer, Bethany Deal as Costume Designer and Kris Vecere as Stage Manager.