Tag Archives: reefer

Nr 465: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978)

6 Mar

Ain’t Misbevavin’
1978: Broadway, 1 604 perfs.
1979: West End
1982: Tv-version
1988: Broadway Revival, 176 perfs.
1995: West End Revival

Book: Murray Horwitz, Richard Maltby, Jr.,
Music & Lyrics: Various composers and lyricists

The musical is a tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing creativity, cultural awareness, and ethnic pride, and takes its title from the 1929 Waller song ”Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It was a time when Manhattan nightclubs like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out the new beat known as swing.
Five performers present an evening of rowdy, raunchy, and humorous songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

This is one swinging show. If you don’t start tapping your toes, snapping your fingers and break out in a goofy happy smile while listening to the cast recording you’re in serious trouble, my friend. Because this is an infectious, melodious, well sung, well arranged and overall brilliantly staged masterpiece of a show. Without a doubt one of the best, if not the best revue ever to be presented on Broadway. At least in my opinion.
Now, I must admit that I saw the original London production in 1979 and not the Broadway one, but both André DeShields and Charlayne Woodard from the Broadway show were in it – and it was a brilliant production. I was totally blown away.
Just the way they delivered the songs… They weren’t just singing the words they were telling a story, really telling it and not just singing beautiful notes (although they sang beautifully, all of them) and they were acting the songs. They made every song come to life and it was heaven to me. I hadn’t realized, till then, that you could deliver a song in this way, with so much passion, engaging storytelling and with total audience contact. I was sucked into the world of Fats Waller, his time and his music.
And another first for me was when André sang The Vipers Drag, lightning up a reefer on stage, slithering around, ”getting high” and at one point started to flirt with some girls on the first row and offering them a toke. When they reached for the joint he pulled it away from them with an evil smile and wagged his finger in a ”no, no” sign which had the entire audience screaming with laughter. I had never seen an actor interact with the audience that way before. I loved it. I wanted more of it and I always think of that moment when I’m on stage myself because that’s the kind of contact I want to have with the public too.
I was in my teens when I saw this show and it was one of my first visits to a musical all by myself and that was an adventure in it self.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s East 73rd Street cabaret on February 8, 1978. It became such a smash hit that they decided to develop it into a full-scale production that opened on Broadway in may that same year.
The cast at the Manhattan Theatre Club included  Nell Carter, André DeShields, Ken Page, Armelia McQueen, and Irene Cara. Yep, that’s the same Irene Cara who went on to play ”Coco Hernandez” in the 1980 film Fame and recorded the film’s Academy Award and Golden Globe winning title song ”Fame”. She also sang and co-wrote the song ”Flashdance… What a Feeling” (from the 1983 film Flashdance), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1984. 
On Broadway Irene was replaced with Charlayne Woodard.

There is also a sixth very importend cast member in the production and that is the orchestrator Luther Henderson (1919 – 2003), who’s orchestrations and vocal arrangement are one of the resons why this is such a brilliant and joyful show. They are absolutely brilliant! And he appeared as the on stage pianist in the original production.
Luther served as orchestrator, arranger, and musical director on more than fifty Broadway musicals from Beggar’s Holiday (1946) to Jelly’s Last Jam (1992).

In 1995 there was a national tour of the show starring The Pointer Sisters. Although it never reached Broadway, as originally planned, a recording of highlights from the show was released.

The Broadway show won:
3 Tony Awards: Best musical, Featured Actress in a musical (Nell Carter) and Best Direction of a musical (Richard Maltby, Jr.).
3 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Actor and Actress in a musical (Ken Page and Nell Carter)
2 Theatre World Awards for Nell Carter and Armelia McQueen.
The Tv-version from 1982 won 2 Primetime Emmy Awards for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for Nell Cater and André DeShields.

Reviews:
A joyous celebration. … This really is Fats Waller on Broadway. It is a memorial that breathes. It is a testament to a curious genius – one of the few people you seem to know from the memories of their recorded voice. … simply a Broadway show that you will never forget. And it is really Waller. It really is.
– Clive Barnes, New York Post

What whistles, hoots, throws off sparks and moves at about 180 miles an hour, even though it is continually stopped? Ain’t Misbehavin’.
– Richard Eder, New York Times

To put it as judiciously as possible, Ain’t Misbehavin’ has a first act that will knock your ears off and a second that will come back for the rest of you.
– Walter Kerr, Times

Since this is Broadway, the land of bristling microphones and loudspeakers by the carload, there is a tape deck and a pair of sound consoles at the rear of the theatre that look elaborate and complicated enough to send the show into space. But that’s just what the cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’ does all by itself. Wow!
– Douglas Watt, Daily News

Videos:
At the Tony Awards
Nell Carter singing I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling
Lounging at the Waldorf
2018 Highlights reel
The Complete Tv-version of the show
Fats Waller sings Ain’t Misbehavin’

Nr 457: Reefer Madness! (1998)

6 Jun

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Reefer Madness!
1998: Los Angeles
2001: Off-Broadway
2005: Tv-version
2009: London

Music: Dan Studney
Lyrics: Kevin Murphy
Book: Kevin Murphy based on the 1936 film Reefer Madness

Creeping like a communist it’s knocking at our doors
Turning all our children into hooligans and whores
Voraciously devouring the way things are today
Savagely deflowering the good ol’ USA
It’s… Reefer madness! Reefer madness!

As the play opens, an evangelical lecturer addresses an audience which is supposedly composed of concerned parents. His goal is to warn them of a new menace that is sweeping the nation, a leafy green assassin ready to ensnare and seduce the youth and drag them down into a life of sin: marijuana.
He starts to tell the true story of the Harper Affair: 15 year old Jimmy Harper, was a fine, upstanding, clean-cut, All-American boy whose life fell apart because of the evil reefer. Jimmy was a good kid, with a bright future ahead of him. He had a sweetheart whom he loved, the wholesome and sweet Mary Lane. But when Jimmy is tricked into taking his first puff of reefer, his life quickly spirals downward. He begins to neglect his family, his schoolwork, even Mary, in order to spend all his time smoking at the Reefer Den. His addiction leads him to evil jazz music, dance, debauchery, sin, theft, violence and, eventually, murder. Along the way he also meets Jesus, the devil, some zombies, a cannibalistic, constant giggling manic dope fiend, an angel, some overly friendly inmates at the local penetentuary who just want to take a shower with him and a surprise visit from president Franklin D. Roosevelt…
On top of all that he also finds time to recite a little Shakespeare!
What’s not to like?
It’s a musical filled with camp, hilarity, mayhem, and madness.

Detta är en riktigt underhållande och grymt kul musikal med smittande musik. Jag är oerhört förtjust i den och har lite svårt att fatta att den inte har blivit kult. När den spelades i Los Angeles i originaluppsättningen så blev det lite ”Rocky Horror” varning på den för folk såg föreställningen om och om igen och klädde ut sig till sina favvofigurer och lärde sig replikerna etc. 
Men i New York så las den ner rätt fort och filmversionen är nog relativt bortglömd. Men om ni kan hitta DVDn så köp den direkt. Ni får en galen musikal med stora shownummer, catchiga låtar, absurd och garanterat icke-PK handling, ”over the top” skådespeleri från väldigt bra skådisar, lite sex, lite våld och ni får, som bonus, även originalfilmen från 1936 som musikalen är baserad på. 

Musiken är en blandning av rock, swing, jazz, gospell och musikalpasticher. Det finns några stora skillnader mellan scenversionens musik och den i filmen, man bytte bl a ut några sånger och skrev om andra. Men jag gillar bägge versionerna.

Kuriosa:
The film from 1936 was originally made as Tell Your Children and sometimes titled as The Burning Question, Dope Addict, Doped Youth, and Love Madness but is best known as Reefer Madness.

Originally the film was produced as a warning to parents about the use of cannabis, the film was later recut by Dwain Esper and gained notoriety as an education-exploitation film, the typically low-budget genre known for excessively hyping trends and news through lurid and trashy scenes intended to be more entertaining than enlightening. Over the years, some of these films have been artistic or revolutionary enough to become culturally significant, such as Night of the Living Dead. However, Reefer Madness has been declared the worst film ever made; Leonard Maltin gave it zero out of four stars, calling it “the granddaddy of all ‘worst’ movies.”

Christian Campbell som spelar Jimmy i filmen spelade samma roll redan i originaluppsättningen i Los Angeles.
Han är storebror till Neve Campbell som spelade huvudrollen i alla 4 Screamfilmerna. Hon är också med i denna musikalfilm. Man tyckte det var så kul att kunna ha med bägge syskonen i filmen att man skrev om en av rollerna så man kunde casta henne i den. 

Videosar:
Trailer for the original 1936 Reefer Madness film.
Trailer for the movie musical Reefer Madness from 2005
Title song with Alan Cumming
Little Mary Sunshine with Kristen Bell
Listen To Jesus Jimmy
Jimmy Takes a Hit/The Orgy
The Truth – Finale

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Filmaffisch.

 

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