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Friday October 24, 2014
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Ain't Misbehavin'

 

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might not be quite in their arena, but he contributed a lot of style and flair. In Harlem, they particularly loved the piano, and Waller was one of the early adopters of a certain springy left-hand rhythm called "stride." He was also a composer, spinning off hit songs effortlessly.

This is a revue, a cousin to the musical. If musical comedy is theater that sprouted songs, a revue is a music program that sprouted acting. This one, created in 1978 by Richard Maltby and Murray Horowitz, ran for over a decade on Broadway and is probably the reason why most people can stumble through a few lines from Waller's most famous songs, "Honeysuckle Rose" and the title song "Ain't Misbehavin'."

Set in a 1940s after-hours speakeasy in Harlem, the revue, which runs through January 1 at Performance Network, features three women (Kron Moore, K Edmonds, and Jennifer Cole) and two men (Darrian Ford and James Bowen) who sing and act out Waller's greatest hits, throwing in a little dance and between-song banter. The four-person band, composed of piano, sax, bass, and drums, is all white. Coincidence? It's more likely a sly role reversal. Jazz and blues artists like Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and Ethel Waters put places like the Cotton Club on the map, but they played to largely white audiences, and the management never let them forget they were the hired help.

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