Ain't Misbehavin'

Give five rowdy performers the floor, lend them a four-piece combo (piano, bass, drums and trumpet), let all concerned tear into the music of the great Fats Waller, and you’ve got a great night of Ain’t Misbehavin’. Revues can be tedious—mindlessly stringing together song after song—but this one, which won a 1978 Tony, remind you how central Waller’s songbook is to African-America identity. The singers strut and sass, teasing each suggestive syllable out of classics like “Honeysuckle Rose” and “’Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness” using raised eyebrows and sly asides. This is what it must have felt like to hear the original renditions that drew white fans up to the raucous, heady heat of Harlem jazz clubs. The ’78 show helped introduce a new generation to Waller (1904-1943), and that production’s second cast included Viviane Jett, who leads this promising new ensemble in songs of howling joy and fierce pride. STEVE WIECKING

Jan. 11-16, 7:30 p.m., 2011

 
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