Arts & Culture Family Featured Music & Events Fara Illich January 4, 2010

I saw “AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'” at the always lovely Herberger Theater on Saturday night. One word: Wow!
“AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'” is a Tony Award-winning celebration of the music of the incredible Thomas “Fats” Waller sung by four monstrously talented actors and a seven-piece orchestra. As an audience member, if your toe didn’t start tapping from the very first musical number, I would advise you to get your blood pressure checked. STAT.
misbehavinBorn in New York City in 1904, Fats Waller penned over 400 songs in his short life during the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. He died, sadly, at the young age of 39. Many of his songs are still sung today and the cast of “AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'” belted out 30 of them during Saturday night’s Arizona Theatre Company production. Truthfully, I could have listened to 100 more.
The set for “AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'” was simple: a red velvet curtain, the orchestra seated on a platform, clearly visible. A round table with liquor bottles and shot glasses in the corners giving the illusion of a Harlem joint. Darkly painted walls. A glittery ball to cast shadows. Rebecca Covington, Angela Grovey, and Aurelia Williams wore bright, glamorous dresses and feathery hats from the early 20th Century while Christopher Morgan and Ken Robinson dazzled in three-piece suits, hats and suspenders. The keyboardist, Darryl Ivey, was dressed as Fats Waller and was as much a part of the production as the actors, especially during the first half of this two-act musical.  His piano and platform circled the stage.
As the actors performed each number, you really got to know Fats Waller through his lyrics, including the time periods in which he wrote them—Prohibition, the Great Depression, even WWII. He wrote soulful ballads, gleeful love songs, and jubilant melodies, all reflecting his lust for life. While it would be difficult to pick an absolute favorite, there were three ballads that reached deep inside and absolutely touched my soul: Honeysuckle Rose, I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling, and the haunting and beautiful Black and Blue.
Incredible talent. Amazing voices. Timeless songs. And right here in Phoenix.
You can check out tickets at or by calling the box office at 602.256.6995. “AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'” will only be here till Jan. 17.
Don’t miss it!