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‘Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show’ is stellar outing

By Jay Pateakos, Contributing writer

The Cape Playhouse kicked off its 97th season with the Fats Waller Revue “Ain’t Misbehavin,'” which rocked the house on opening night with a wonderful mix of jazz and stellar singing and dancing by a perfectly cast five-person ensemble cast. Get ready to carry tunes like “Fat and Greasy,” “Your Feet’s Too Big” and “Black and Blue” with you for days after!

The show:

Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show,” conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz, created and originally directed by Maltby, Jr., with original choreography and staging by Arthur Faria.

What it is about:

The show, which won a Tony for Best Musical in 1978, is a musical revue and tribute to Fats Waller, a turn-of-the-last-century jazz pianist, composer and singer best known for the title theme “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” The show features five incredible talents performing sultry, raunchy and humorous songs that will make you want to get up and dance all night long.    

See it or not:

See it NOW! As a big fan of jazz, this show was a must-see for me and a show I was surprised I had never seen before, to my great loss. The songs and performances are all incredible and you leave the two-hour show with one intermission singing a handful of them on the ride home.

Highlight of the show:

It’s hard to single out one highlight to this talented five-person cast. Ciara Alyse Harris (who played Alana Beck in the U.S. tour of “Dear Evan Hanson), plays Charlaine (Look out for “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now”), Ashanti J’Aria (“FBI: Most Wanted” (2020), “Katy Keene” (2020) and “Maya and Her Lover” (2021) plays Amelia (“When the Nylons Bloom Again”), Tarra Conner Jones known for Sangria Lift (2015)Joyland (2021) and Harlem of the South (2023) plays Nell (“Cash for your Trash”). Anthony Wayne who portrays Andre (look for his “The Viper’s Drag” song) and Juson Williams who plays Ken (“Your Feet’s Too Big”) were all phenomenal talents who excelled in their individual as well as group performances.    

Fun fact:

Director/Choreographer Lacy Darryl Phillips paid tribute to his friend and fellow performer/mentor Ken Page, who created the role of “Ken” in the original Broadway production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Phillips said Page graciously passed the torch to him, both sharing a rich history dating back five decades, watching each other’s careers take off.

Worth noting:

Phillips was grateful to share the experience with his sister, Marishka Shanice Phillips, who was assistant director and dramaturg for this production. She also has her own business, Marishka Phillips Theatrical Preparatory, in New York City.

One more thing: OK, two things.

Tarra Conner Jones as Nell, a role made famous by Nell Carter in the 1980s, was a favorite of ours, especially my wife who played her songs all the way home. Secondly, there are a few songs that just stay with you including Wayne and Williams’ “Fat and Greasy,” Jones and J’Aria’s “Find Out What They Like” and the ensemble’s song “Black and Blue.” Just a few that you’ll remember for some time.

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