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'Ain't Misbehavin'' at OCT

O regon Cabaret Theatre's revue of songs written or made popular by jazz artist, composer and innovative performer Fats Waller captures the exuberance and playful spirit of the man. Thomas "Fats" Waller was a one-of-a-kind entertainer. High-spirited and full of life, he cut a distinctive figure — with his derby hat, broad smile and impish eyes — perched at a piano pounding out his trademark stride-piano rhythms.

"Ain't Misbehavin': The Fats Waller Musical Show" was conceived and originally directed by Richard Maltby Jr., with orchestrations by Luther Henderson and vocal arrangments by Jeffrey Gutcheon and William Elliott.

It premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1978 — winning many awards, including a Tony for best musical. The show is not particularly autobiographical, but it does give audiences a portrait of a man with a mischievous personality and a penchant for wordplay and stage asides.

Named after Waller's best-known composition "Ain't Misbehavin,'" the revue features about 30 songs, including "Honeysuckle Rose," "The Jitterbug Waltz," "The Joint is Jumpin,'" "Spreadin' Rhythm Around," "Lounging at the Waldorf," "Your Feet's Too Big," "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," "Two Sleepy People" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

The show previews Wednesday and Thursday, June 4-5, and open Friday, June 6, at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, First and Hargadine streets, Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays and 1 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 31.

Tickets cost $19 for the June 4 and 5 previews. Other tickets cost $21 to $39.

Dinner reservations begin at 6:30 p.m. for evening shows, and brunch starts at 11:30 a.m. for matinees. Appetizers, beverages and desserts are available without reservations.

Tickets and information are available online at www.oregoncabaret.com, at the box office or by calling 541-488-2902.

Waller was the son of a preacher. A natural musician, he began playing organ in his father's church — which led him to work as an organist in movie theaters, vaudeville houses, nightclubs and, eventually, recording studios. He toured the U.S. and Europe with his band Fats Waller & His Rhythm.

Christopher George Patterson, Roslyn Seale, Ashley Kelley, Abena Mensah-Bonsu and Rod Singleton make up the ensemble of singers and dancers in OCT's production. Live music will be played by pianist Jordan Richardson, drummer Tom Freeman and reed-player Daryl Fjeldheim.

OCT's Jim Giancarlo directs and choreographs "Ain't Misbehavin.'" Music direction is by Richardson, set and lighting by Craig Hudson, costumes are by Kerri Lea Robbins and sound is by Freeman.

'Ain't Misbehavin'' at OCT