Winter Park Playhouse
Music by Fats Waller
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Christopher Leavy
With Patrice Bloomfield, Faith Boles, Meka King and Shonn McCloud
High up in the fly loft, at least as high as one can rise in this intimate space, we find multi-instrumentalist Ned Wilkson blowing the horn like Gabriel at last call. Down below, the sinners work as hard as they can to make visiting confession worthwhile. It’s an evening of “Fats” Waller’s best blues, jump and jive as we relieve they days when Harlem wasn’t just safe, but trendy. The talent pool runs deep here; along with the oversized band we find a cast stuffed with oversized talent. The music tonight is all from Fats Waller: blues, swing, jazz, and everything that lead up to the Soul Music days of the 1970’s.
The cast is all dressed to the nines and beyond: Spiffy hats and suits with vests on the guys, monochrome silk and fur on the ladies. Hits litter the stage with Shonn McCloud and Faith Boles acing “Honey Suckle Rose” while Patrece Bloomfield drives us through “When Nylons Bloom” again. Nylon stocking appeared just before the war, then disappeared as all that nylon and rayon went into the war effort. Talk about bait and switch….
Act two surpassed Act One as Deejay Young led us in “The Viper’s Drag.” If WPPH can support legalization, it can’t be far off. Meka King took her big solos with “Keepin’ out of Mischief Now” even if it seems she was more interested in keepin’ in that activity. Everyone stayed in constant motion, and the sextet of musicians got everything right making these hits pop out of the 78 RPM shellac sound that dominated my early exposure to Mr. Wallers works. It’s high energy, highly suggestive and all fun, all night long. Let’s go see what happening in the alley behind the stage. I hear that’s where the musicians take their breaks.