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LISTEN TO THE HEART OF HARLEM
"Ain't Misbehavin'" takes a spin at Riverside Dinner Theater

 Oh, behave: Theresa Cunningham, Brandon Martin and Kadejah One star in the small cast.
PHOTOS BY ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 1/24/2013

BY JESSE SCOTT

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

With a name like Fats, you'd better deliver something big.

During his 39 short years on this Earth, jazz singer Fats Waller was simply larger than life.

He was an African-American cultural icon. He composed more than 400 original songs including "Jitterbug Waltz" and "Honeysuckle Rose." He paved the way for some of the most renowned jazz artists of his time. And in 1993, nearly 50 years after his death, Waller was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Waller's legacy is alive and well in 2013. "Ain't Misbehavin'," a Broadway-style musical revue, showcases the jazz singer's biggest hits and takes audiences on a musical journey of Waller's vivacious, soul-filled catalog.

"Ain't Misbehavin'" will own the stage at Riverside Dinner Theater, Wednesdays through Sundays, until March 10.

"[Waller] speaks to each and every one of us, where we can understand it," said Patti D'Beck, director of the production and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "He was such an amazing performer and his music won the love of the American public. He was a contagious, larger-than-life individual and you can really feel it through his art."

"Ain't Misbehavin'" first burst into the national spotlight in 1978. The revue was a smash on Broadway for more than 1,500 performances, thanks to the captivating, Tony Award-winning vocals of Nell Carter.

In Riverside's rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin'," New Orleans native Kadejah One takes on Carter's prized role.

"Mr. Waller used chords that we simply don't use today," said One, a former lead actress in "Dreamgirls" at Riverside. "You hear diminished chords, augmented chords all so close together. It really took a lot of practicing."

Among the many songs that One belts out in the production are "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" and "Mean to Me." The full cast of "Ain't Misbehavin'" features only five total members, meaning each singer carries quite a vocal load. The focus is on their vocals and their actual names--unlike most shows, the actors in "Ain't Misbehavin'" have no character names, but use their own.

"The small cast situation has really been one of the most delightful experiences of my career," said One. "We became a family very quickly when it really can go the other way. The other side is that often you're the only person singing your notes--you have to be on it."


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What: "Ain't Misbehavin'" Where: Riverside Dinner Theater, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg When: Wednesdays to Sundays through March 10 Cost: $40-$60 Info: 540/370-4300; riversidedt.com