By Walter Rutledge
Harlem original Fats Waller returned uptown to the community he loved via the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin presented at Faison Firehouse Theater. This version of the high-spirited, and high-energy musical revue is directed by A. Curtis Farrow; and presented in collaboration with Irving Street Rep. and FaisOne Productions. The first thing that becomes apparent is how well the intimate setting complements Waller’s songbook; which has become a compass articulating the Harlem Jazz era of the 1930’s and 40’s.
Farrow has constructed a fun vehicle that combines great staging, clean snappy arrangements and seasoned performers to create an audience friendly musical romp that puts a smile on your face from the overture to the encore. The cast was personable and inviting, cajoling the audience into ignoring the usual theatrical distance and in-turn becoming part of the production.
The stellar cast provided the proper mix of stage savvy, humor, and vocal chops to get the “joint jumpin”- Waller style. Dawn Driver, Danea Robinson, Ron Lucas and Farrow joined original Broadway cast member Vivian Jett. The ensemble obliterated the footlights performer/audience demarcation line by frequent group participation numbers, which included audience members being invited on stage.
The production captures the feeling of Harlem’s heyday. Small clubs doing big things that made the whole world clap to the beat of a syncopated drummer. If you want to experience the magic of Fats Waller in a truly smart uptown setting don’t miss Ain’t Misbehavin at the Faison Firehouse Theater. Performances run Thursday through Sunday until November 23. For tickets visit smartTix.com or call 212.868.4444.