The Harlem Renaissance bloomed with Black music, dance, vogue and literature lower than 60 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Broadway musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which Central Square Theater revives April 28 to May 29, champions this blossoming of Black artwork by songs by jazz pianist and singer Fats Waller.
“As our dramaturge Lovely Hoffman, who is also an actor in the play, pointed out, the Harlem Renaissance was only a generation or two removed from enslavement,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” director Maurice Emmanuel Parent instructed the Herald. “So it’s a time of Black joy, empowerment and ownership over agency juxtaposed with a time of starvation, oppression and racism. Even though there was still segregation, you could go to Harlem, create art and be part of this, well, renaissance.”
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” debuted on Broadway in 1978. The musical revue was a sensation, profitable the Tony for finest musical, working for 1,600 plus performances, and introducing the world to Nell Carter — who received her personal Tony whereas working alongside fellow future stars within the solid Irene Cara and André De Shields. A rowdy, raunchy romp, the revue deserves to be again on the stage proper now, Parent mentioned.
“The show purposefully goes back to a time of Black joy and evokes that culture on stage at a time when we need joy,” the director mentioned. “We particularly need Black joy, Black community, Black excellence.”
Parent admits that components of the present are dated and he and his inventive group and solid have labored round these bits. But he feels a lot of the work holds up.
“The opposite of dated is classic,” he mentioned “This is nostalgic and celebratory of our ancestors. The artists whose shoulders we stand on.”
But Parent provides that the elation could be tempered with a dose of actuality.
“There is a song ‘Black and Blue’ that reflects the pain of being Black at that time,” he mentioned. “When Fats Waller wrote it, people felt it was one of the early protest songs. It comes with the sadness of having to face so much oppression.”
In different methods, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” feels ahead wanting — which is smart contemplating it’s a co-production of the Front Porch Arts Collective, a Black theater firm that champions elevated illustration of individuals of colour on and off stage. The present can also be produced by Greater Boston Stage Company and The Nora at Central Square Theater; it’s going to run April 28 to May 29 in Central Square and June 9 to 26 at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham.
The unique solid purposefully included actors with totally different pores and skin tones and physique shapes. Parent says this manufacturing expands on that.
“We have actors that don’t apologize for their size, they celebrate it,” he mentioned. “Difference sizes, skin tones, backgrounds, our cast exemplifies that.”
All that is in line with what Waller dropped at his life and artwork, a wry exuberance that could possibly be joyously unhinged and finely crafted .
“He was a bit of a clown, mischievous, and still this amazingly talented musician who lived life to his fullest,” Parent mentioned.
For particulars and tickets, go to centralsquaretheater.org.