WILLIAM FOSTER MCDANIEL FLIES ACROSS THE KEYS, RECREATING JAZZ PAST. STYLISH QUINTETTE DELIVERS FATS’ MEMORIES.
WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. February 19, 2019:
Ain’t Misbehavin, this month’s review of Fats Waller’s soulful boogies, blues, jumptunes that took American music out of ragtime and into the anything-goes twenties is in its last week at The Westchester Broadway Theater.
The venerable venue turns into The Cotton Club of Harlem sets heels tapping, bodies swaying and inhibitions fade away in a roadhouse rouser. It’s the top!
McDaniel masters in authorative Waller style on the black-and-whites on a honky tonk piano for two hours upfront of an orchestra of knockout soloists and delivered up front backed by a quintet of soloists .
Here is the heavy beat, the heat, the cool, the blues they called jazz, then swing, the big bands to come) in uniquely American music from the unique Fats Waller style. It’s musical memories that taught Americans how to dance.
McDaniel is accompanied with a comic, manic ensemble of mellow men about town crooners Ron Lucas, Tony Perry and divine divas Martine Allard, Amy Jo Phillips and Anita Welch who deliver the naughtiness, the coquettishness, the melancholy inspiring songwriters to come.
Costume Designer Keith Nielsen has outdone himself, outfitting his engaging entertainers with sharp suits, rakish derbies wide ties, baggy pants the rage in roaring 20’s while giving his divas gowns, hats, gloves with décolletage delightful. If you dress the part you deliver it and with the ensembles duets, quintettes and elegant dance routines to the inspiring McDaniel melodies, you listen, move and your body moves with them.
The Waller songs in this show start with the sheepish, wink-wink Ain’t Misbehavin’ that sets the tone for the lyrics you hear on this evening—sentimental, sassy, rousing, filled with subtle double-entendres that say one thing but let you smile at the ambiguity of what the lady or the leading man is really saying. Waller’s stuff puts thrill and titillation into the songs, and above all the good times roll all night long.
You hear the words to songs that you rarely hear sung; Honeysuckle Rose, and Black and Blue(my favorite song in the show that I feel is a show stopper for its double message)
The show goes to the top after intermission break with a dazzling set: the fabulous Lounging at the Waldorf number, the hilarious Viper’s Drag, and the audience pleaser Your Feet’s too Big by Tony Perry whose comic timing just keeps audience laughing every time he sings Your Feet’s Too Big.
The high kicking Ms. Welch as Charlaine, delivers a coquettish Keepin’ out of Mischief now and duets divinely with Mr. Lucas on I Can’t give You Anything But Love.
Martine Allard as Nell fronts the quintette with a fabulous swingy I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling. Amy Jo Phillips (Armelia) teams with Mr. Perry to put real meaning into Two Sleepy People
There are no dull moments in this revival and the only criticism I have is you did not get to dance on stage with the cast to this hip swaying, squeeze- your-baby music. You’ll love Mr. McDaniel’s piano; those swingers in the band, and the hardest working emsemble in show biz.
Tickets are still available for the final performances at this “The Cotton Club of the past” for performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday contact the box office at 914-592-2268 or buy tickets online at www.BroadwayTheatre.com
Let me off uptown!
Tell ’em John sent you.