Published: Thursday, February 14, 2019 By: Marlene S. Gaylinn Source: On CT Theatre

This lively show currently at Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT), features about 30 songs Thomas (“Fats”) Waller either wrote or performed during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30’s. The style at that time was a mixture of swing, ragtime and jazz.  Like the song, “This Joint is Jumpin’ ” the music set everyone in the place, including members of high society, jumping to the beat.

Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz conceived this musical tribute that won the 1978 Tony Award for Best Musical.  Maltby, who also directed the show at WBT, was introduced to the audience on Opening Night and received another special award for his work.

William Foster McDaniel, who certainly knows how to tickle the piano keys while conducting the jazzy, five-piece orchestra, was the Musical Director of  “Ain’t Misbehavin” when the show opened on Broadway.  So in effect, the audience is seeing the original, Broadway show with a new cast of five, very entertaining performers:  M. Martine Allard (Nell), Ron Lucas (Andre), Tony Perry (Ken) Amy Jo Phillips (Armelia) and Anita Welch (Charlane).

Each performer has a wonderful voice and gets a chance to shout out and shine in the musical numbers:  “’T Ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do”  (Andre & Company), “Honeysuckle Rose” (Ken & Nell), “Squeeze Me” (Armelia), “Cash for your Trash” (Nell) etc..  My outstanding favorites are “The Viper’s Drag” performed with tantalizing, snakelike body movements by Ron Lucas (Andre), and “Your Feet’s Too Big,” with comic animation by Tony Perry (Ken).

“Find Out What They Like,” uproariously rendered by Amy Jo Phillips and Martine Allard was naughty for its time (1929) and still is.  Speaking of time, and at the risk of dating myself, I recalled my mother washing dishes and singing, “Mean to Me,”  “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” -- and tears welled-up as I recalled those and other popular, pre-WWII songs of my early childhood.

Sadly, they just don’t write them as they used to anymore. 

See this great show with you valentine sweetheart and have a nice dinner at WBT (included).  Convenient, self-parking is free.