Review: BIG SEXY: THE FATS WALLER REVUE At Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

Nate Jacobs's original production is the perfect fit for this versatile troupe that ignites the stage with a rousing musical tribute.

By: May. 03, 2023
Review: BIG SEXY: THE FATS WALLER REVUE At Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

In their closing season performance, WBTT brings to life the world premiere Big Sexy: The Fats Waller Revue. Nate Jacobs's original production is the perfect fit for this versatile troupe that ignites the stage with a rousing musical tribute.

Thomas Wright, aka "Fats" Waller, was an American jazz pianist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer. His Harlem-stylized piano renderings influenced the sound of modern jazz piano that we have come to cherish today. Fats realized his dreams at an early age when he began playing the piano at the age of 6. He became a professional keyboard player at 15. By the age of 18, he achieved recording artist status. Fat's name may not be recognizable to some people, but most know and love his work from many of the 400 songs he scored, including Honeysuckle Rose, Stormy Weather, Lulus Back in Town, The Joint is Jumpin, and Aint Misbehavin, which became a huge Broadway musical hit.

Who better to present his work with all the style and flair that it deserves than Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe? And style and flare they delivered. Jacob's cleverly written tribute is a performance of pizzazz and his cast provides the audience with a living biography of Fats Waller's work through vignettes of his life and music.

Starring in the titular role of Fats is long-time Troupe member Leon S. Pitts ll who shines as Waller. That voice, his moves, and his style are captivating. The inspiration for Big Sexy was to showcase Mr. Pitts, who has been coined "WBTT's Teddy Bear." "He has dedicated over 15 years of his time and unique talent to our shows, fundraising events, and many special performances throughout our community. One day he joked with me about creating a show for him and the name should be "Big Sexy". Not long after that time, I began creating this show", states Nate Jacobs.

Powerhouse Ariel Blue, as Fat's leading lady Devenae Darling is divine and made for a perfect match. Performers Jazzmin Carson as Henrietta Hash, Ulric Alfred Taylor as Leroy Levanthall, and Andrea Jean as Sherry Sunshine round out the team of high-end talent who make for a cohesive cast.

I particularly enjoyed some of the lesser-known tunes exhibiting Waller's sense of humor in delightfully orchestrated songs such as Your Feet's Too Big, Viper Drag, and two of my favorites, Ball in the Jack, and All That Meat and No Potatoes. Jazzmin Carson's Stormy Weather was worth the price of admission.

It's a sight to see beholding Donald Frison's sizzling choreography and Adrienne Pitts' glitzy art deco dresses for the ladies and sharp pinstriped suits for the gentlemen. Musical director Matthew McKinnon and the versatile band brilliantly laid the underscore for each song and dance. I can't go without stating a "wow" to accomplished reed player Jason Whitmore who can engineer a sultry sax with the best them.

Treat yourself to one of the best shows in town and step back in history for some of the most iconic music of our time. Bravo WBBT, can't wait to see what you bring to the stage next year.

Big Sexy continues staging through May 28, 2023 westcoastblacktheatre.org.

Photo: Sorcha Augustine



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