Fats Waller musical re­vue gets Win­ter Park Play­house jumpin’

Orlando Sentinel - - PEOPLE & ARTS - By Matthew J. Palm Or­lando Sen­tinel The­ater Critic [email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com; @mat­t_on_arts. Print re­views are con­densed for space; full ver­sions at Or­lan­doSen­tinel.com /arts.

Broad­way hit “Ain’t Mis­be­havin’” has al­ways been lauded for cap­tur­ing the sense of op­ti­mism that bub­bled through­out the Har­lem Re­nais­sance, that ex­plo­sion of African-Amer­i­can artis­tic cre­ativ­ity that be­gan in 1920s New York.

On­stage at Win­ter Park Play­house, the Fats Waller musical re­vue lives up to its rep­u­ta­tion. There’s a joy that per­co­lates this cel­e­bra­tion of the great com­poser­mu­si­cian and en­er­getic hits such as “’Tain’t No­body’s Biz-ness If I Do” and “The Joint is Jumpin’” while cap­tur­ing the times from which this cel­e­brated mu­sic comes.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, those times feel dated. When Faith Boles and Pa­trece Bloom­field sing how they keep their men happy by let­ting them al­ways have their way, well, a mod­ern eye­brow might raise. But the song re­mains palat­able, as the women can­nily sug­gest that per­haps they re­ally aren’t al­ways giv­ing in — and that their re­la­tion­ships pos­si­bly aren’t the best any­way.

It also helps that Boles and Bloom­field can sing, as well as sell a num­ber with panache. This is some­thing all five of di­rec­tor Roy Alan’s stars have in com­mon, and he lets them do their thing.

Meka King gives a wink to the good­time “Keepin’ Out of Mis­chief Now,” while Shonn McCloud puts his res­o­nant bari­tone to good comic use in “Your Feet’s Too Big.” Dee­jay Young slinks and vamps his way through “The Viper’s Drag/The Reefer Song” with its lyrics about a joint that’s “5 feet long.”

Not all is fun and games, though — so­cial com­men­tary on the pre­war years raises its head from time to time as “Loung­ing at the Wal­dorf ” paints a pic­ture of dis­tinct white and black com­mu­ni­ties. Her voice heavy with emo­tion, Boles sings about a woman mis­treated in “Mean to Me.” And the com­pany asks the haunt­ing ques­tions “Why was I born?” and “What did I do to be so black and blue” in a con­tem­pla­tion of black hard­ship.

In all their har­monies, but es­pe­cially “Black and Blue,” the per­form­ers dis­play a smooth blend. Their mu­si­cal­ity is aug­mented by mu­sic di­rec­tor Christo­pher Leavy’s six-piece band, which just about al­ways strikes a per­fect bal­ance with the singers. (Though, since the mu­si­cians are on­stage, they could try to look like they are en­joy­ing them­selves.)

In other words, this “Ain’t Mis­be­havin’” is a dandy way to ac­quaint your­self with Waller’s works, or re­visit them like the old friends they are.

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