Ain’t Misbehavin’ 2015

 The Fats Waller Musical RevuePorchlight-Music-Theatre’s-Ain’t-Misbehavin-at-Stage-773-POSTER

 Conceived and originally directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.

 Based on the idea by Murray Horwitz & Richard Maltby, Jr.

 Directed and Choreographed by Brenda Didier

 Musical Direction by Austin Cook

With the same cast as last year, Ain’t Misbehavin’ seemed more energetic, more bouncy, and more entertaining than ever! It is a fine alternate to all the holiday shows around town.

Tom Williams

The joint is jumpin’ at Stage 773 with the Fats Waller revue

Fats Waller

Take a trip to a Harlem nightclub (via Stage 773) of the 1920’s/30’s/40’s to see and hear Fats Waller and his friends unwind—the journey is broad and bawdy, sassy and naughty, but a sure crowd pleaser. .Director/choreographer Brenda Didier has cast five terrific entertainers and she has staged the toe-tapping revue with sexy movements and swift dances. Robin Da Silva, Sharriese Hamilton, Donterrio Johnson, Lorenzo Rush, Jr., and Lina Wass seemed to have as much fun as the audience singing  and dancing to the Waller songbook.


Ain’t Misbehavinis a “joint jumpin’” sparkling ode to the tunes associated with Fats Waller: composer, musician and nightclub personality. You’ll hear swing, the rhythms of ragtime, and the passions of jazz, blues, be-bop, waltzes, and jitterbug with some playful sexy double entendres that hint nasty with tongue-in-cheek humor. The result is an overwhelmingly joyous evening celebrating Black America’s contribution to our culture.

The 20’s and 30’s were a time when black musicians who earned their living playing downtown came back uptown to unwind at smoky nightclubs and all-night “rent” parties.  This atmosphere offered all sorts of theatrical possibilities, and Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs its gleeful way from sophisticated struts “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around” to low comedy, to classic ballads of lost love such as “Mean To Me.” No wonder Ain’t Misbehavin won the Tony for Best Musical and ran for 1,604 performances on Broadway.

This revue contains the best of Fats Waller’s songbook, plus many tunes he inspired and performed. From his signature song “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” we begin to feel the sophistication and smooth style and genius of Waller (1904-1943). Waller is know as the “King of the Stride Piano”—”stride” comes from the action of the hands when playing the piano in this style: the left hand plays a constant, striding beat against a melodious right hand. Stride is considered the first true form of jazz. Stride is often fast-paced and dynamic. Fats Waller was a master of the stride technique. (From Arena’s Page. Published by Arena Stage.)


Waller’s music runs the complete range of jazz, swing, blues, and pop music of his time. He composed ballads, ditties and rousing up tempo tunes. He had a pulse on the Black culture of Harlem.

The emotions of the time are rendered in tunes like ‘T’ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “Honeysuckle Rose.” “Squeeze Me” and “How Ya Baby.” The swing era is represented with “The Jitterbug Walts,” “The Ladies Who Sing With The Band,” and “Cash Fro Your Trash.” Act one ends with the bouncy “This Joint Is Jumpin”—one of Waller’s best songs.

Act two opens with “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around” and move through the bluesy part of Waller highlighted with Robin Da Solva’s emotional “Mean to Me.” Lotrenzo Rush, Jr. delivers a cute “Your Feet’s Too Big,” and “Fat and Greasy,” while “Black and Blue” covers the angst of life.

The Finale features a medley of tunes Waller performed, including many he didn’t write. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” ‘Two Sleepy People,” “It’s A Sin to Tell A Lie,”  and “I Can’t give You Anything But Love” are well known standards nicely sung.


The five member jazz band features Chris Thigpen on bass, Michael Weatherspoon on drums, with Shaun Johnson on trumpet, and Rajiv Halim on Saxophone and clarinet. The conductor and pianist is the energetic Austin Cook who easily has Waller’s “stride” techniques down. These guys delivered the sounds of Fat’s Waller fabulously.

Porchlight Theatre continues to mount outstanding musicals with their distinct “Chicago Style.” Their Ain’t Misbehavin‘ is an amazingly fun, tuneful, toe-tapping experience. Fats Waller’s songs need to be performed by talented and respectful players. This cast will leave you fulfilled and entertained far beyond your expectations. Don’t miss this wonderful revue.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252,, tickets $45,  Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm,, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, throughDecember 20, 2015