Stories & Cast Interviews

Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Joint Is Jumpin' with The Music Of Fats Waller!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz, the musical revue Ain't Misbehavin' premiered in 1978 on Broadway as a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, when black musicians played at Manhattan clubs frequented by members of high society.
Thomas “Fats” Waller rose to international fame during the Golden Age of the Cotton Club and that jumpin’ new beat, swing music. He was a legendary composer, singer and comedian, picking up the nickname “Fats” because of his girth, Waller was famous for his Harlem stride piano style — alternating bass notes with the left hand and melody with the right — which laid the groundwork for jazz piano.

Waller made is first recording in 1922 and was a prolific songwriter, composing many familiar songs such as “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” both with his most frequent lyricist Andy Razaf.
By 1926, he was so popular that while at an engagement in Chicago he was kidnapped to appear at Al Capone’s birthday party. He wrote for the early all-black Broadway shows Keep Shufflin' (1926), Load of Coal (1928), and Hot Chocolates (1929). Waller headlined several radio shows, most notably “Rhythm Club,” which featured Fats Waller and his Rhythm Sextet. Later he composed Early to Bed (1943), the first non-black Broadway show composed by an African American. Over the course of his lifetime, Waller published more than 400 original songs.

One day in the Dayton, Ohio Public Library, A teenaged boy by the name of Murray Horwitz, checked out Fats Waller's album Valentine Stomp. He realized Waller was the greatest jazz pianist who ever tried to make people laugh, and the greatest comedian who ever played jazz.
He partnered with lyricist and director Richard Maltby Jr., and helped to create Ain’t Misbehavin’. The show combines songs that Fats Waller composed, collaborated on, or recorded in his signature style. The reason for the success of the show, Murray Horwitz insists, "was overwhelmingly the excellence and universal appeal of Fats Waller.”

It was a process of putting Fats Waller's music, his wit and his gargantuan personality on the stage -- it was a kind of play-writing all the way through, using those five characters to represent Waller.” Said Richard Matlby Jr. “It's all about dealing with an unfair world. This is a world in which black artists had to use the back stairs rather than the lobby. They never complain about it, they deal with it with language.”

The original Broadway production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ opened on May 9, 1978 and ran for 1604 performances. It won that year’s Tony Award, Outer Critics’ Circle Award and Drama Desk Award, all for Best Musical. Nell Carter, Ken Page, Andre DeShields, Charlaine Woodard, and Armelia McQueen starred in the original production. Richard Maltby Jr. was the director, Arthur Faria, an expert on 1930s dance, choreographed the show and Luther Henderson, who adapted Waller's music for the revue, was the production's original pianist. 

Today, Ain’t Misbehavin’ retains its popularity as an energetic, musically rich show. Over sixty years after Fats Waller’s last performance, new audiences are meeting and falling in love with him again.

“Fats gives us a way to make sense of modern life. What is even more astonishing is that he makes us smile – and often laugh – as he does it,” said Murray Horowitz.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A CHRISTMAS CAROL The Musical returns for 2018 Holiday Season

Posted by: pia on Friday, December 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 A wonderful Holiday treat to delight all ages! This new musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens Classic features an original score as well as many of the traditional carols we love to sing! See Scrooge and Tiny Tim and all of the timeless characters we’ve all grown to know & love. And this version includes a surprising new twist! With a large cast, look for colorful production numbers and lots of dancing! An uplifting evening of holiday cheer!

Starring David Edwards as Mr. Scrooge!


Book by John Fanelli  And Original Music and Lyrics by George Puello

David Edwards will star as Ebenezer Scrooge. Emma Barishman, Sarah Colt, Joseph Cullinane, Courtney Lynn Curry, Jackson Fanelli, Rachel Gifford, Alex John Johnson, Alexandra Milbrath, Joey Sanzaro, Brandon Shockey, Edward Simon, Daniel Walstad, will star as the other memorable Dickens characters.

Guest starring is a local group of musically talented performers ages 10 – 17, who are trained in Voice, Dance, and Theater.

Directed by John Fanelli, Musical Direction by Julianne Merrill, Musical Staging by Joseph Cullinane, Lighting Design by Andrew Gmoser, Set Design & Technical Direction by Steve Loftus, Sound Design by Mark Zuckerman, Costume Design by Keith Nielsen, Victor Lukas Is the PSM, Props by Grumpy's Props.

DAVID EDWARDS (Scrooge) returns to the stage at the Westchester Broadway Theatre has appeared in 12 productions including as Albin in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, Don Quixote in MAN OF LA MANCHA, and as Scrooge in several versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  He also directed THE PRODUCERS and HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at WBT.  Broadway and National Tour credits include THE ROTHSCHILDS, THE PRODUCERS, and BY JEEVES.   He starred Off-Broadway in ROOM SERVICE, BITTERSUITE, and IONESCOPADE among others, and was the final “El Gallo” in the history-making original run of THE FANTASTICKS.  Regionally he has played everything from Moliere to Stoppard, Porter to Sondheim.  His film and TV appearances include BELLY, THE FANTASTICKS: TRY TO REMEMBER, and MESHUGGAH-NUNS.  David is also an award-winning theatre director and can be heard on many cast albums and a solo CD “David Edwards Giving Voice…” available on iTunes and Amazon.

JOHN J. FANELLI is thrilled to be returning to Westchester Broadway Theatre to direct A Christmas Carol. John holds a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of California, San Diego. Mr. Fanelli has had more than twenty successful years directing, teaching and creating programs for thousands of young people in theatre arts from California to New York. John is the Founder/Artistic Director of Lighthouse Youth Theatre and Standing Ovations Studios in Armonk NY.



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Original Cast recording of PHANTOM!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Many of our cast members of the 1992 production are in this recording, singing the glorious Yeston score! Check it out!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Roger Preston Smith returns to WBT in PHANTOM.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   I  grew up in the country outside the small town of Loveland, Ohio about 45 minutes outside of Cincinnati.  I spent a lot of time on my own working the fields and garden and our roadside vegetable stand.  During those hours in the field, I would often get lost in daydreams singing and dancing.  I still don't understand where my desire came from but it was there as long as I can remember.  When I was six, I found a  brochure from the  PTA.  They were offering dance lessons for 50 cents.  I begged my parents to allow me to take tap and I guess the rest is history.  They never really understood what I was doing but they were always supportive.

I spent the first 20 years of my career as a dancer.  Originally I just wanted to be a concert dancer and was a member of several Ballet and Contemporary companies.  In my 30's I began doing Musical Theater and because I didn't look like a chorus boy, I was often given the small speaking parts and understudying principal roles.  This allowed me to extend my career long after most dancers have retired. Even though I still sometimes serve as the dance captain, I am primarily hired as an actor now.

I was aware of this version of  "Phantom" but had never seen it or even heard the score before.  I saw the Broadway version right after it opened and was somewhat unimpressed.  I felt that the show was more about the spectacle than actually telling a story.  In fact, I remember very little about it except the chandelier.  I have been pleasantly surprised with how beautiful and lush the music is in the Yeston version.  I also love the fact that you find out how the Phantom came to be.  It makes him a more real and sympathetic character.

This is my 11th production at WBT.  It's always great to be able to work and still live at home.  Plus you know the shows are going to be high quality.  After, so many shows, the people here have become like a family to me.  I'm always happy to come back.

I think my favorite show is Pippin.  It opened around the time that I arrived in NYC.  I had never seen anything like it.  The tickets booth had also just opened and I bought 1/2 price tickets 12 times to see Pippin.   "Dear Evan Hanson" and "Come From Away" are my favorite contemporary shows.  My dream roles would be Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" and Fagin in "Oliver".  I have understudied Hook several times but never got to go on.  Luckily I was able to perform Fagin for a week but would love to get the chance to do again for a longer period and really develop the character

I'm an avid Cyclist and also love going to the gym.  But my biggest passion is travel.  Luckily my career has taken me around the world and I have friends throughout.  I try to do at least one international trip for at least a month each year.  I want to travel while I'm still able to hike and climb and really enjoy myself

I enjoy Classical music, Musical Theater, and Jazz.

 As Jean-Claude (center) in PHANTOM.