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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

`Ain't Misbehavin'' comes to the Valentine on Sunday

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ain't Misbehavin', a fast-paced musical revue featuring five singers and four musicians, will be staged Sunday in the Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo.

Set in a juke joint, it's a journey to 1930-ish Harlem and the songs of Thomas “Fats” Waller, said Ron Lucas, one of the singers.

Among the Waller classics featured are “Honeysuckle Rose,” “T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do,” and “Your Feets Too Big.” Actors wear snazzy period clothes - ermine and pearls for the ladies, bowler hats and spats for the gents.

With nearly 30 of Waller's best tunes, Ain't Misbehavin' premiered on Broadway almost 25 years ago and won three Tony awards in 1978.

The production that visits Toledo for one show at 3 p.m. is staged by the Irving Street Rep., a Newark, N.J., group that produces musical entertainment. It has previously assembled touring shows of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, Five Guys Named Moe, Godspell, and the Elegance of Ellington, among others, said Lucas.

The man who wrote the music was an intense life force. Fats Waller was a powerful pianist, a man of large appetites, and one of the first black superstars.

Born in 1904, he was the son of a Baptist deacon in Harlem. He taught himself to play the organ and by 15 was accompanying silent films at a movie house. He also accompanied singers in vaudeville shows. At 18, he was making solo recordings.

Among the hundreds of pieces he composed - often with stunning speed - are the scores for three Broadway shows, including Early to Bed, which marked the first time a black composer's score was used for an all-white Broadway musical.

A wonderful and mischievous entertainer, he so impressed guests at a 1934 party at George Gershwin's that he landed a recording offer. He toured in the United States and also toured and recorded in Europe, playing in fine supper clubs in Hollywood, Paris, Berlin, and London.

He was called the king of stride piano and influenced both jazz and swing music.

In addition to song, he loved wine and women, and his flamboyant personal life landed him in jail for not paying alimony. He died of pneumonia on a cross-country train trip in 1943 at the age of 39.

Ain't Misbehavin' is to be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Valentine Theatre, 400 North Superior St. Limited seating is available. Tickets cost $37 and $25 at the box office, 419-242-2787.



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