Richard Maltby Jr. Recounts AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Roots & Reception
In a new entry in the Masterworks Broadway LEGENDS OF BROADWAY web series, Tony-winning director/lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. discusses the inception of the idea through to conception, casting, enaction and reception of the Fats Waller revue AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'.
Maltby Jr. reveals how the show was created under highly unusual circumstances, largely to fill a spot on a theatre company's spring schedule - put together "on its feet, largely," he says - in less than two months.
"With AIN'T MISBEHAVIN', the cast really had a very, very important part in the structure of the show. I had expected the show to be three people because it was a cabaret show," Maltby Jr. remembers.
As for iconic leading lady Nell Carter's audition? "Nell Carter sang 'New York, New York', knocking out the back wall of the rehearsal room. And, then, because she had to sing a 1930s song, she sang Noel Coward's 'If Love Were All" - as un-Harlem as it could possibly be; I've never heard it sung more stunningly, more movingly," he fondly recalls.
Maltby says the solutions for many of the show's dramatic problems were instantly solved by the casting, though. "So, we had, suddenly, and endless construction of triangles and plots available among a cast of five. And, that came out of the casting," Maltby Jr. opines.
Additionally, Maltby shares a story of a fellow musical theatre master offering a helping hand to the new musical, as well - none other than Stephen Sondheim.
Maltby candidly recounts, "I had two choral pieces that I knew needed to be all five people... but, I couldn't figure out who should sing it. Then, it occured to me that the song is five lines and the title - it just seemed mathematically perfect, but I needed a stunning arrangement. And, again, Steve Sondheim came to the rescue."
How so, specifically? "I asked him if he knew somebody, and, he said, 'The best person is Bill Elliott,' who I had never heard of... he took a week and did this absolutely breathtaking arrangement," Maltby Jr. says.
"It had an amazing trajectory, that show," Maltby Jr. relates with affection, wrapping up the storied journey of the well-regarded revue.
Check out the entire Masterworks Broadway LEGENDS OF BROADWAY interview with Maltby Jr. below.