International City Theatre Closes Season with AIN'T MISBEHAVIN', 10/9-11/4
The joint will be jumpin' when International City Theatre closes its 2012 season with Ain't Misbehavin', the Tony Award-winning musical revue based on the life of Thomas "Fats" Waller. Saundra McClain directs Phillip Brandon (national tour: The Color Purple), Niketa Calame (Celebration Theatre's The Color Purple), Amber Mercomes (San Francisco and Los Angeles Opera productions of Porgy and Bess), Lacy Darryl Phillips (Broadway: Fosse and A Raisin in the Sun) and Jennifer Shelton (first national tour of Ragtime; previously seen on the ICT stage in Songs for a New World, Five Course Love, The Story, Honk! and Swinging on a Star), with musical direction by Rahn Coleman and choreography by Stephen Semien. Performances take place October 12 through November 4 at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, with low-priced previews beginning October 9.
Step back to the Golden Age of Jazz, when places like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were havens for snappy swing music and snazzy jazz, and the stride piano infused the soulful energy of a generation. Taking its title from the 1929 Waller song, Ain't Misbehavin' is a lively tribute to the black musicians of the Harlem Renaissance, featuring 30 finger-snapping, toe-tapping numbers including "Honeysuckle Rose," "Squeeze Me," "Handful of Keys," "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" and "The Joint is Jumpin'."
"I want the audience to not only finger-snap and toe-tap along-but to be transported back in time, before hip-hop, through the bebop era and into the Harlem Renaissance, which was one of the most astonishing explosions of theatrical creativity in modern American history," says McClain. "I hope those who have seen other productions will be pleasantly surprised by our fresh approach and by the energy and passion of this version. I see Ain't Misbehavin' as a timeless classic, not a museum piece, and I want to make it not only entertaining, but innovative and relevant for today's audience."
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz, Ain't Misbehavin' premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1978 to critical and popular acclaim. It soon transferred to Broadway where it ran for four years, garnering three Tony and three Drama Desk Awards and launching the careers of original cast members Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page and Charlayne Woodard. The show found its inspiration when Murray Horwitz invited Richard Maltby, Jr., to his apartment to listen to some rare Fats Waller recordings. According to Maltby, it was the wit in the piano that convinced him that Waller's musical repertoire and personality could live on stage.
Set design for the ICT production of Ain't Misbehavin' is by John Iacovelli; lighting design is by Ben Pilat; sound design is by Paul Fabre; costume design is by Kim DeShazo; props are by Patty Briles; hair and wig design is by Anthony Gagliardi; casting is by Michael Donovan; production stage manager is Pat Loeb; and caryn desai [sic] produces.
Thomas "Fats" Waller (1904-1943) was born in New York City, the youngest of four children and the son of a reverend. By age six he began playing the piano and by the age of fourteen performed on the organ at Harlem's Lincoln Theater. By 18, two of his piano solos were recorded. In 1918 he won a talent contest playing Johnson's "Carolina Shout," a song he learned by watching another pianist and performing solely by memory. Waller was one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in his homeland and in Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter and composed many novelty swing tunes in the 1920s and '30s, but sold them for relatively small sums. When the compositions became hits, other songwriters claimed them as their own. Alternatively, many standards that he performed are sometimes controversially attributed to Waller. He died of pneumonia on a cross country train trip in Kansas City, MO on his way to Hollywood having made what would be his final recording in Detroit.
Saundra McClain received rave reviews for her direction of The Fantasticks and In the Continuum at Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara. Her production of Ain't MisBehavin' at Bridgeport's Playhouse on the Green won the Connecticut Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble, and she was asked to restage it for Two River Theater Company (NJ), where she also directed Spunk. As adjunct professor at Queens College, she directed Sophocles' Electra and also created and taught the Black Theater Workshop. She has directed Death of a Salesman; Antigone; To Be Young, Gifted and Black; and The Women of the Plums (Kennedy Center's Youth and Family Programs), Dark of the Moon; Hello Out There; Don't See My Bones and Think I'm Dead (Henry Street Settlement), A Modest Proposal (UBU Rep), Harriet's Return, a one woman show, and Of Ebony Embers-Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance, a one man show with chamber orchestra (Cherry Lane Theatre), both of which toured nationally for five years. Ms. McClain was artistic director of TROUPE NY, which adapted classic works for the schools and developed new works with emerging playwrights and directors. She is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio, an ensemble member of The Antaeus Company, and Artist-in-Residence at Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara where she will direct Frankie and Johnnie in the Clair de Lune later this season.
Richard Maltby, Jr. is an American theater director and producer, lyricist and screenwriter. He has conceived and directed the only two musical revues to ever win the Tony Award for Best Musical: Ain't Misbehavin' (1978: Tony, N.Y. Drama Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk Awards, also Tony Award for Best Director) and Fosse (1999: Tony, Outer Critics, Drama Desk Awards). He received a 2009 Drama Desk Award nomination as director of The Story of My Life for "Outstanding Production of a Musical."
Murray Horwitz's other theatrical credits include co-writing and directing Haarlem Nocturne and Sole Sisters. He wrote RFK: Journey to Justice, which was recorded for public radio by L.A. Theatre Works and toured nationally, and the popular song lyrics for John Harbison's The Great Gatsby, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. At National Public Radio (NPR), he was Vice President of Cultural Programming for four years and, before that, NPR's Director of Jazz, Classical Music and Entertainment Programming. Horwitz originated NPR's hit comedy quiz, "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" and is the recipient of the National Medal of Arts and three Peabody Awards.
International City Theatre is Long Beach's Resident Professional Theater at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center and the recipient of the Margaret Harford Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for "Sustained Excellence in Theater."
Ain' Misbehavin' will run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm, October 12 through November 4. Tickets are $37 on Thursdays and $44 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night which is $55 and includes a reception with the actors following the performance. Preview performances take place on Tuesday, October 9; Wednesday, October 10; and Thursday, October 11 @ 8 pm. Preview tickets are $29.
International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at (562) 436-4610 or go to www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.