This month The Performance Network Theater presents the Tony Award winning musical revue, Ain’t Misbehavin’. Director, Tim Rhoze talks about the production.
Current: The last show you directed for PNT was The Piano Lesson whose subject, at least on one level, was music. Ain’t Misbehavin’ has the music front and center, though it’s a revue, not a play or a musical.
Rhoze: There is no story in a revue, but there is an underneath. And the underneath here is Fats Waller and his short life. He died at 39 in 1943. He became such an influential musician in the Swing era, he stuck out because of his stride piano technique as well as his humor. This revue, what interests me about it is that I really love that time period for music, how groundbreaking it was.
Also, I want to take it out of a typical Broadway setting, where it was on a great, deep and wide proscenium, because we are Performance Network, which is a very intimate space. Dan Walker, who is one of the more brilliant set designers around, he and I have had some wonderful conversations about where would this take place? And we developed what I think is something somewhat unique to this revue, which is that we wanted to bring it to uptown Harlem, not in the Cotton Club, not at the Savoy, but in one of those places where the average people would hang out, where the blacks and whites would hang out together. It would be a much more intimate club, down an alley, in a basement kind of thing. And these performers would come up there to sing the songs of Fats Waller. They would have come from downtown somewhere, after doing their gigs, after playing, singing or dancing on Broadway, or wherever. They come hang out at this place after hours. That’s not written into the book, but I wanted something to anchor the show.
Music was sort of like the adrenaline that flowed through the veins of America during that period. It’s so different from what’s happening today, but today wouldn’t be happening without it. The musicians and the composers then, they were creating something that will last, I think, forever.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs from November 11 through January 1 at the Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron Street. Tickets are $27-$46. For more info, 434-663-0681 or www.performancenetwork.org.