Fats and Ain’t Misbehavin’ Come to Boston
Ain’t Misbehavin,’ the revue based on the music of Fats Waller, opened at the Wilbur Theatre on February 28, 1979. Ain’t Misbehavin’ ran for over 1,600 performances on Broadway, winning the Tony award for Best Musical in 1978. Within weeks of its closing, the touring company, with Yvette Freeman leading the cast, set off to its first stop in Boston. The show included more than 25 tunes Waller wrote or played, including “The Jitterbug Waltz,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “The Joint Is Jumpin’,” and “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now.”
There was a fine local band on hand to play Waller’s music: trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, Andy McGhee and Dick Johnson on reeds, trombonist Kenny Wenzel, bassist John Neves, and drummer Rudy Collins. The show’s pianist and musical director was J. Leonard Oxley.
Waller was a frequent visitor to Boston, at nightclubs of the late thirties and early forties like the Tic Toc and Southland. He also starred in stage shows at the RKO-Boston that were the inspiration for Ain’t Misbehavin,’ such as the Connie’s Inn Revue and the Hot From Harlem Revue, both from 1936. It was during the run of the latter show that Waller made the momentous appearance at the Theatrical Club that I described in The Boston Jazz Chronicles.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ was back in Boston in a new production in 2003, this time at the Huntington Theatre. A fine local band again provided the backing: trumpeter Shawn Hines, saxophonist Chuck Langford, trombonist Hommy Ramos, bassist Ron Mahdi, and drummer Stanley Swann. The music director and pianist was Ronald Metcalf.
Here’s a mugging Fats himself doing the title tune in the 1943 film, Stormy Weather.