Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Ain't Misbehavin': The Fats Waller Musical Show

Also see Tracy's recent reviews of 1776 and 42nd Street

When one hears the name Fats Waller, a single word comes to mind - legend. Counted among the great American composers, Waller is responsible for beloved songs such as "Honeysuckle Rose" and "The Joint Is Jumpin'." Several decades after Waller's death, Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr. decided to immortalize his music in their musical review, Ain't Misbehavin': The Fats Waller Musical Show. Now, twenty-five years later, Arena Stage takes on this joyous musical event.

The first thing you notice about this production is its set. Sitting upon the stage is a giant antique radio. As the music starts, the radio slowly turns, revealing a fabric lined interior that houses a five-piece orchestra. Neil Patel created the extremely original set design. The design in its entirety creates a rather impressive scene.

With outstanding direction by Ken Roberson, Ain't Misbehavin' is a wonderful mix of moving ballads humorous tunes. The score as a whole is infectious and the cast seems to enjoy performing it.

Doug Eskew and E. Faye Butler
This cast is extremely talented, but there are two particular standouts in the group. Helen Hayes Award nominee E. Faye Butler (The Gospel According To Fishman, Dinah Was) shows off her versatility in this piece. Miss Butler has a saucy attitude and a voice that will knock your socks off. She swings during "Cash For Your Trash" and is simply lovely when she delivers a heartfelt rendition of "Mean To Me." Doug Eskew is equally dynamic. He has a jovial manner and a killer voice. Mr. Eskew is just plain fun to watch. He is especially strong during "Your Feet's Too Big."

The remainder of the cast is made up of Janeece Aisha Freeman, Amy Jo Phillips and Raun Ruffin. They all provide some splendid moments, and the cast as a whole offers up a poignant performance of "Black and Blue" that is truly memorable.

Arena Stage has once again come up with a winner. So, jump, jive and jitterbug down to Ain't Misbehavin'. The Fats Waller review runs through May 25th in the Kreeger Theatre.

Arena Stage - The Kreeger Theatre
Ain't Misbehavin': The Fats Waller Musical Show
March 21st - May 25th
Conceived and Originally Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Based on an Idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr.
Directed by Ken Roberson
1101 Sixth Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or

Cast List

E. Faye Butler
Doug Eskew
Janeece Aisha Freeman
Amy Jo Phillips
Raun Ruffin

Photo: Scott Suchman

-- Tracy Lyon

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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