The five stars of “Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show” are ready to take the stage on Valentine’s Day weekend. Pictured (from left) Robbie Hendrix as Andre, Erika Becker as Armelia, Louandrea Young as Nell, Verlyria Hairston as Charlaine and Austin Bowen as Ken.
When the Harlem Renaissance began, it was described by philosopher and scholar Alain LeRoy Locke in these words: “The pulse of the Negro world has begun to beat in Harlem.” Set in 1930s Harlem, N.Y., “Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show” is a nod to the great African American musicians of the 1920s and 30s, which include the likes of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Ella Fitzgerald.
The show features five lead performers who aren’t afraid to immerse themselves in the songs that tell stories of the period.
Devin Pendleton, director of the show and artistic director for Patriot Players, said the show encapsulates an era that created some of the most famous pieces of African American literature, art and music of all time.
“What I’ve done artistically with the show is tie in some literature and other facts about the Harlem Renaissance Era that the audience may not be familiar with,” he said. “We’ve tied in popular dances from that time, like the jitterbug waltz, and the actors are learning how to sing in harmonies of the period.”
Pendleton said putting on a show like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a special opportunity for the Patriot Players.
“No matter what platform you have, you can make any opportunity an educational opportunity,” he said. “It means recognizing where we’ve been and looking to where we’re going. It can be anything that celebrates African American history. It also can mean the legacy of Fats Waller; not only did he play well, but he adapted a while new sound that paved the way for the jazz community.”
Not only do the songs tell stories of the time, but so do the costumes, said Jane Leizer, the show’s choreographer and director for the Patriot Players.
“We’ve costumed the entire show for the era, and we’re performing on a set that’s built like an authentic night club in 1930s Harlem,” she said. “It’s a fun show with a lot of music from those times that people will really enjoy.”
Tickets for the show are on sale now. To purchase, call the PHCC Switchboard at (276) 638-8777. They are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and $15 for preferred seating onstage.
The show has been rescheduled to Feb. 20-22 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. .
PHCC also has several other programs taking place throughout February to celebrate Black History Month.
On Feb. 11, Tory Via will join the program titled “Black Arts, Poetry and Music,” which will feature poetry and music of late musicians such as Duke Ellington and A-Train. An expert will lead a discussion on Feb. 18 to discuss the causes of sickle cell anemia and its symptoms, tests, treatments and prognoses.
The last program of the month on Feb. 25 will be a panel discussion about civil rights in America. Community leaders will join faculty, staff and students in an open discussion.
All activities take place from noon to 1 p.m. in Frith Exhibit Hall at PHCC. They are all free and open to the public.
The cast of the latest Patriot Players musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” took the stage in costume during a recent rehearsal. Pictured (front row, left to right) Robbie Hendrix, Verlyria Hairston, (back row) Erika Becker, Austin Bowen and Louandrea Young.
To find out more about these events, email . Visit www.patrickhenry.edu/patriotplayers to find out more about the upcoming performances of “Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show.”