AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, the musical revue that celebrates the music of Fats Waller, is the next show that will open at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Hunter Foster is directing this production, and he is no stranger to directing shows at Bucks County Playhouse (BCP). In the 2013 season at BCP, Foster directed The Summer of ‘42 and The Rocky Horror Shpw. In addition, Foster, is known for roles such as Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Benny Perkins in Hands on a Hardbody, as well as many others took the time to speak with me about directing Ain’t Misbehavin’ and the importance of live theatre.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about Ain’t Misbehavin’?
Hunter Foster: The show honors the music performed and written by Fats Waller. It is also a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance and that era. The show is a musical revue where the performances and music connect the dots and tell a story within the confines of the revue. Ain’t Misbehavin’ has incredible music that defines an era.
In the production at Bucks County Playhouse we want to explore things naturally in the show. However, I have talked to Richard Maltby Jr. [who co-conceived and directed the original Broadway production,] and we want to honor him and the show as well.
Kelli Curtin: Ain’t Misbehavin’ was named one of the most influential Broadway shows. Why do you think this show is important to the history of American musicals?
Hunter Foster: This show celebrates the music of the past. It is the first Jukebox musical where actors perform the music of Fats Waller. This show helped pave the way for other jukebox musicals that celebrate African American life and culture with shows such as After Midnight and Black and Blue. Ain’t Misbehavin’ was the first of its kind and it celebrated the music of Fats Waller, one of the great jazz legends.
Kelli Curtin: Do you have a favorite song/scene in this show?
Hunter Foster: All the music in this show is infectious and unique to the time period. The song, “Honeysuckle Rose” is one of the more recognizable songs of the musical. There is something about this number that stands out to me. It is sensual and sexual and about being in love. In addition, “Cash for Your Trash” was a song written for the salvage effort during War II and is about donating things to help towards the war effort.
Kelli Curtin: You have had a successful career as both an actor and director. Is there anything you attribute to your success?
Hunter Foster: I find it is important to learn from other actors and directors. Watching and observing the creative process is part of the key to success. I do not think I know everything, and every day I try to keep getting better. In addition, I try to remember that the creative process is a learning process and I am willing to learn and I am open to changing ideas. I go with the spark and never stifle creativity.
Kelli Curtin: Do you have a favorite role you have played? Is there a role that you want to play, but have not had the opportunity to play yet?
Hunter Foster: Benny Perkins in Hands on a Hardbody is one of my favorite roles, although it did not run long. One of my favorite shows is Chess. I want to play the Russian one day before I get too old. Chess is one of those shows that is rarely performed.
Kelli Curtin: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts?
Hunter Foster: Be as knowledgeable as you can and understand the world and events around you. Do not get caught up in just the world of theatre because it can limit you. You need to understand the world and things around you. This will help you as a performer to have empathy. Lastly, take acting classes. Performers need to be able to act as well as be able sing and dance.
Kelli Curtin: In your opinion, why do you think live theatre is important?
Hunter Foster: In a world where we spend so much time on technology with iPods, iPhones and other technological devices, we live two-dimensional world we are all guilty in taking part in. Seeing things live and in the moment is a different and unique experience. Witnessing a live performance cannot be recreated digitally. With the world constantly changing, it is important to have theatrical experiences. In this busy world we live in, people are craving a live theatrical experience where real emotions are cultivated both on and off stage. These raw emotions are really important as it has an impact on how you think and feel. Theatre is one of the last places we, as artists, can make a statement that shines light on humanity without being influenced by corporate sponsors.
Foster was very passionate about the importance of Ain’t Misbehavin’ and directing this show that defines the jazz era. Ain’t Misbehavin’ begins at Bucks County Playhouse on August 14, 2014 and runs through September 7, 2014. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.bcptheater.org or call the box office at (215) 862-2121.
Photos courtesy of Bucks County Playhouse
Also seen on the Broadway World Phildelphia site