The Rubicon Theatre Company’s production of the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ invites you to take a trip to 1930s Harlem, where nightclubs were brimming with lively jazz numbers, the American swing movement was on the rise, and the legendary Thomas “Fats” Waller rose to prominence as a jazz pianist.
As a three-time Tony Award–winning musical since its opening in 1978, Ain’t Misbehavin’ was described as “The Perfect Broadway Musical” by New York Magazine. As much as it might very well be the perfect show, Ain’t Misbehavin’, at its core, embodies a tribute to Fats Waller, along with the groundbreaking work he accomplished throughout the Harlem Renaissance and for the Black community, as he was a symbol of pride and expression for Black life and identity.
The musical, whose namesake reflects Waller’s 1929 release of the track “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” follows his life amid the backdrop of the 1920s-1930s jazz and swing era, from his rise to fame at age 18 to his life’s legacy of helping to create the swing movement with his unique “stride” keyboard style. Skirting from clamorous nightclubs to lively dive bars, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a musical that not only transports viewers into life from another era, but also includes vivacious performances of Waller’s hit songs, from “Honeysuckle Rose,” to “Your Feet’s Too Big.”
The original show was written by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr., and the Rubicon brings on director Wren T. Brown, who conceived the musical to infuse the visceral sense of joy, celebration, and freedom characteristic to its performances. Brown notes that the Rubicon Theatre Company “will bring their own spirit and spin to the parts, making the show their own,” while paying tribute to the original roles.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ will also feature choreography from Dominique Kelley, a long-time part of the world of theater who describes himself to be “an avid tap dancer and percussionist, who fuses rhythm patterns with classical movement to create a visual and aural experience.”
To tie everything together, William Foster McDaniel, the musical director of the show, will bring his talents to the Rubicon after having produced the musical with the original company in Los Angeles.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through December 18 at the Rubicon Theatre on 1006 E. Main Street in Ventura; tickets can be purchased here.