"One never knows, DO one?"
October 1, 2006 - 22:00.
That classic line from the Fats Waller musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ makes me smile every time I hear it, especially rumbling out of a baritone throat. No, one never knows what might befall one…so why not celebrate, preferably with music, whenever one can?!
Ain’t Misbehavin’ plays at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul through October 22. EXTENDED THRU NOV. 5! Please, please see it if you can.
See it for the trip back in time, to Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s. See it for Sanford Moore’s musical arrangements that’ll have you jumpin’ and jivin’ in your seat (or, after songs like Black and Blue, dabbing a tear). See it for the dapper and daring costumes by Reggie Ray, and for the passion and purpose of director Patdro Harris. And see it for the sheer magnitude of talent appearing together on Penumbra’s stage: Thomasina Petrus, Jevetta Steele, Austene Van, T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis Spears, and Aimee K. Bryant, who was absent on opening night but whose name is on the program.
Associate producer Sarah Bellamy writes:
Undoubtedly, Fats Waller (1904-1943) was one of the most talented musicians of his time…. Written in the late seventies, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a posthumous tribute to one of the greatest jazz pianists this country has known; a musician and composer with his finger on the vibrant pulse of black life in Harlem during its heyday.”
Indeed, as a 20-year-old musician commented after the play, most of us (not just white folks, but anyone younger than 60 and not from New York City) have never experienced a juke joint or rent party like in Harlem, and we never will.
This production is as close as it comes, according to very special guest Geri Kennedy, manager of the Silver Belles, a New York-based troupe of tap dancers now in their 80s and 90s which formed in 1985, but all of whose members have been dancing on Broadway since the 1930s with Fats Waller and other notable musicians. Geri’s indomitable Belles star in the new documentary Been Rich All My Life, so naturally I asked her to autograph my program! Get this—Geri flew to Minneapolis for the opening of Ain’t Misbahavin’, then flew out the next morning to dance in a NY show—at age 80+! “[Silver Belles member] Cleo is 93 and she’s still dancing, too,” Geri said.