Ain’t MIsbehavin’ The Fats Waller Musical is a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance and the music that made it a swingin’ time in American history. Andre De Shields, one of the show’s original five, recalls its climb from tiny off-Broadway musical, to Tony Award winning sensation.
“When a show wants to go to Broadway [today] it first goes out of town. We moved from East 73rd Street to West 48th Street in a matter of four months. From December 1977 to May 1978 is that short period where Ain’t Misbehavin’ went from an off-Broadway sensation to a Tony winning musical on Broadway.”
De Shields says there were plenty of jazz artists in Harlem whose music could translate to a Broadway hit, but there’s a little something extra you get with Fats Waller.
“Fats Waller is highbrow because he is one of the geniuses of jazz. He’s also lowbrow because he’s a ridiculous clown. He knows how to talk about the most salacious things and make you think you’re reading the encyclopedia. That’s the magic of Fats Waller.
De Shields is passing Ain’t Misbehavin’ on to the next generation of actors, this time with the Crossroads Theatre Company, also celebrating its 40th year.
“The service I hope that I am giving to the young people who are performing Ain’t Misbehavin’ is to expand the legacy. I feel as if I’m gifting a huge mantel, a huge burden in its original Indo-European meaning which means message. It doesn’t necessarily mean heavy load, though messages can be that. But if you do it with a sense of auteur then the weight goes away and the information remains.”
Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Musical, on a six-performance run at NJPAC from Thursday February 1st, through Sunday the 4th.