Ain’t Misbehavin’

MisbehavinOriginal Broadway Cast, 1978 (RCA, 2CDs) 3 Stars (3 / 5) Manhattan Theatre Club presented Ain’t Misbehavin’ to rave reviews before its hugely successful transfer to Broadway. What this show had that other composer songbook revues have lacked was personality, theatricality, and a cast of then-unknowns that rocked the theater: Nell Carter, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, Andre De Shields, and Charlaine Woodard. These were not the pretty, white-bread, very bland sort of performers featured in revues that make one think of cruise ships and amusement parks. Under Richard Maltby, Jr.’s adroit direction, and thanks to unsung hero Murray Horowitz’s concept, this show featured (gasp!) fat performers, skinny performers, and not-especially-good-looking performers — but boy, could they sing, act, and sock Fats Waller’s songs into the rafters. With arranger extraordinaire Luther Henderson traversing the stage on a rolling piano, Ain’t Misbehavin’ was the first and arguably the last great Broadway songwriter revue, and the recording captures the audio component of what was so special about the show .  — Ken Bloom