Stories & Cast Interviews
Anita Welch is keepin ' out of mischief in Ain't Misbehavin'
I’m a California girl born and raised.
I fell in love with theatre when I was a young girl. My father introduced me to musicals and he and I would rent musicals on tape from the public library. My all time favorite was the 1999 film version of Annie.
As for singing- music always had a huge presence in my household growing up. I had Chronic Asthma as a child and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. My parents put me in voice lessons to help me learn breath support and to strengthen my lungs. Anytime I was afraid my mother would ask me to sing a song. Music helped shape who I am.
I learned about Ain’t Misbehavin' while I was studying at AMDA. I worked in the school library and went through a stage where I would watch the 1978 recorded performance they had on copy over and over.
Ain’t Misbehavin' also happened to be my first equity show. I had the pleasure of doing this show about nine years ago. And get this! I was along side my current co-star Tony Perry! I’m thankful to be doing this show again. This time directed by the creator Richard Maltby Jr! Also working with assistant director A. Curtis Farrow, and Music director Billy McDaniels. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON MY LOVE FOR THIS CAST!
I love the show Dear Evan Hansen. When my friend Charley and I went to see it we were enthralled. But, I can’t really choose a favorite. I also love The Color Purple, Porgy and Bess, and of course Ain’t Misbehavin'.
As for my dream role, I don’t think it exists yet. It is my dream to originate a role on Broadway. To play a character that touches the lives of those who see it; One that is three dimensional and dynamic. I’ve been fortunate enough to originate some wonderful women in new works.
When not on stage, I spend time with my dog. I have a beautiful chocolate Labrador named Chance. He makes life fun and reminds me to smile and live in the moment.
My partner and I just made a playlist on Spotify for our game nights titled “The Everything”. Lately pre-show, I’ve been listening to music that nourishes my soul like India Arie’s "Songversations."
Richard Maltby Jr. Honored at WBT
Richard Maltby Jr. (left) with A. Curtis Farrow.
The AUDELCO BOARD OF DIRECTORS SPECIAL PIONEER AWARD is presented to Richard Maltby, Jr.
Celebrating 40 Years of the Musical Ain't Misbehavin' and how your creation has touched humanity through the music of Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller.
The award was presented by Curtis Farrow on February 1, 2019 at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, NY.
The AUDELCO (Audience Development Committee, Inc.) is an organization that acknowledges and honors Black Theatre and its artists in New York City. Established and incorporated in 1973 by Vivian Robinson (1926-1996), to stimulate interest in and support of performing arts in black communities. Developing relationships with individuals, local groups, churches, and other organizations to introduce new audiences to non-profit performing arts. The annual Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO Recognition, “The VIV”Awards are the only formally established awards presented to the black theatre community.
AUDELCO’s Young Audiences Series addresses the need for positive cultural experiences for children between the ages of 10-17. This series provides entertainment and cultural experience for the youth in non-academic settings. The Black Theatre Archives: A collection of books, tapes, original scripts, costumes and set designs, photographs, playbills and extensive clippings on current theatre groups and activities. Their many Seminars, Lectures, and Forums address the general awareness about the contributions of Blacks in the cultural and socio-economic environment. They publish two publications; Intermission, (A newsletter to stimulate interest in the performing arts) and The Overture (a black theatre magazine to document exciting work done by Black theatre artists.)
Richard Maltby, Jr. Broadway: Conceived and directed two Tony Award Best Musicals: Ain't Misbehavin' (1978: also, Tony Award for Best Director); FOSSE (1999:). Director/lyricist: BABY (1983); Lyricist: BIG (1996). Co-lyricist: MISS SAIGON (1989); THE PIRATE QUEEN (2007). Director/co-lyricist: SONG & DANCE (1986); Director: RING OF FIRE (2006); THE STORY OF MY LIFE (2009). OFF-BROADWAY: Director/lyricist STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW (1977) and CLOSER THAN EVER, (1989). Director: JUST JIM DALE, Roundabout Theatre (2014), VAUDEVILLE, London (2015). REGIONAL: Lyricist, TAKE FLIGHT, Chocolate Factory (2010), McCarter Theatre (2012); book/lyrics, WATERFALL, (Pasadena, Seattle (2015). FILM: Screenplay, MISS POTTER, (2007). Contributes cryptic crossword puzzles to Harpers Magazine. Son of well-known orchestra leader; Five children: Nicholas, David, Jordan, Emily and Charlotte.
Meet Amy Jo Phillips in Ain't Misbehavin'
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan, I was bi-racial before it was popular.
I attended the high school of Music & Art. Though I auditioned as a pianist for both M & A and The High School for Performing Arts and chose M & A so that I could become a vocal major. I first started doing theatre at Ithaca College, specifically with Kuumba Repertory Theatre, where I performed as well as served as Musical Director for 3 years.
My mentor was my late acting teacher Robert Elston. I first studied with him at HB studios (during summer breaks from college) and continued with him when he opened his own studio/theatre (American Renaissance Theatre).
Aside from making my Broadway debut in Hal Prince's Show Boat, one of my fondest memories was the process of being cast as Bloody Mary in national tour of South Pacific (starring Robert Goulet) at the age of 27. I vividly remember not going to the Equity principal auditions because they were looking for someone between the ages 35-50. I finally went to an open understudy call for the role of Liat, thinking I might be able to understudy both Liat (not knowing she was a dancer) and Bloody Mary. I was requested to sing “Bali H'ai” by the casting director (Stuart Howard) and then asked where I had been and what made me finally come in. My response was "Little Shop of Horrors" (I was a vacation swing for the off-Broadway show at the time) and that I thought I could be an understudy. Stuart said that they already had a Bloody Mary understudy, but they were still looking for their Bloody Mary. I was given a callback to sing/read for the producers and director (the late Ron Fields). After singing and reading for the powers that be, I was asked how old I thought Bloody Mary was. All I can say, is that God gave me my answer, 32 with an explanation as to why. It must have been good enough, because by the time I got home from the callback, there was a message on my answering machine telling me that I had the job!
I saw the original Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway while I was still in school. I fell in love with it and saw that there was a place for me in theatre (specifically Armelia McQueen), if nothing else, I could do this show. I’ve done the show with several companies. The last full production was in 2003 at Papermill Playhouse in NJ.
I did South Pacific here at WBT in 1997 as Bloody Mary. The staff is wonderful, they do wonderful productions, and it is close to home (NYC).
Favorite shows? Ain't Misbehavin’, South Pacific, Little Shop Of Horrors, and new favorite, In The Heights. I have been blessed to do a lot of my dream roles, but one that I haven't done yet is Serena in Porgy & Bess.
When not on stage, I love going to see friends perform, theatre, cabaret etc... just being supportive. I love film, and currently taxes (I also do tax preparation/consulting) I listen to R&B, Jazz, Gospel, and theatre music… like many, I'm a Hamilton junkie!
This Joint Is Jumpin' with The Music Of Fats Waller!
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.