BWW Interviews: Max Kumangai Talks about AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' at Bucks County Playhouse
AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' has been called one of the most influential musicals that "helped shape the art form." This show was the first jukebox musical in which actors perform timeless Fats Waller songs. Even today, this show is still relevant, and audiences love this celebration of the music of Fats Waller.
Last week AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' opened at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. The current production is directed by Hunter Foster. I had a chance to speak to Max Kumangai who is in this production at Bucks County Playhouse. He talked to me about what audiences can expect from this show as well as his favorite part of the show.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'? What can audiences expect?
Max Kumangai: It has very tight harmonies. Waller wrote very tight jazz chords, and that is something we have been working on. The show is a fun window into the 1930s. AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' is a good time and is a musical that is an old standard.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me about your role in the show?
Max Kumangai: I play Man 2. We are following the original show for the most part, and we also add some of our own original spin on it. I follow the part that Ken Page played in the original cast. The part is usually played by an older and heavier-set man. I do not fit those characteristics; I am young and ingénue. The role also needs to encompass someone who is a fun-loving jokester, and it is a lot of fun to do this part onstage.
Kelli Curtin: Do you have a favorite song in the show?
Kelli Curtin: How did you become interested in performing?
Max Kumangai: I grew up singing in a choir; I went to a Catholic School. In 7th and 8th grade I began doing community theatre in Spokane, Washington, and that is where I caught the "theatre bug." In addition, I attended a children's theatre camp and this is where I found I wanted to perform professionally.
Kelli Curtin: As an actor, what do you find challenging?
Max Kumangai: Working with the older shows in musical theatre history can be challenging pieces because as a performer I want to pay homage to the original idea of the show. I want to make sure I am telling the stories of the past and telling their truth as well as telling our truth in today's society. I am hoping I am keeping with the spirit as it was intended to be in the show. I always want to make sure I keep in the spirit of Fats Waller and what he wanted to convey in his music in AIN' T MISBEHAVIN'; just as I did when I was in the SCOTTBORO BOYS and wanted to make sure I told their story as it was meant to be told.
Kelli Curtin: Why do you think live theatre is important?
Max Kumangai: Live theatre is important to expose people to different circumstances outside their comfort zone. Live theatre exposes people to so many other topics that they may not encounter in their daily life. In a way it is like "how the other half lives." It enriches a person's life and hopefully makes them think when they leave the theatre.
AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' runs at Bucks County Playhouse through September 7, 2014. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.bcptheater.org or call their box office at (215) 862-2121.
Photos courtesy of Bucks County Playhouse