Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller (May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943)
“Ain’t Misbehavin” is a musical tribute to the incomparable, Fats Waller. It originated at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre on May 9, 1978. The original cast included: Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard. It ran for 1604 performances and closed on February 21, 1982. The book was by – Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., and music by various composers and lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
On June 12, 1982, NBC broadcast the revue with the original Broadway cast and that’s what this post is about and how I experienced the production, which blew me away! Fats Waller songs are classic and give a jumpin’ snapshot of the 1920’s and 1930’s with the cast so brilliantly bringing his songs to life. His signature song was “Ain’t Misbehavin” which is the opening number for the 1982 production.
Waller was an American jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano, and whose best-known compositions, “Ain’t Misbehavin‘” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1984 and 1999.
“Ain’t Misbehavin” was a feature number in the acclaimed 1943 film “Stormy Weather”.
Some of my favorite songs from the NBC production are: “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “The Joint is Jumpin”, and the hilarious”Your Feet’s too Big”.
There were plenty of awards for the 1978 production of “Ain’t Misbehavin” including:
Award – Outstanding Musical
Won – Outstanding Actor in a Musical–Ken Page. Won –André DeShields
Won –Outstanding Actress in a Musical –Nell Carter.
Won – Nell Carter. Won –Armelia McQueen
Won-Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical –Nell Carter.
Won –Best Direction of a Musical –Richard Maltby, Jr.