Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will conclude its 2022-2023 “American Dreams” theatre season with the world-premiere musical revue, “Big Sexy: The Fats Waller Revue.” The show runs from April 19 through May 28, 2023.
Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was an American jazz pianist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer. He began playing piano when he was 6 and realized his dream of becoming a professional musician at 15, earning $32 a week at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem. The stride style he developed influenced the sound of modern jazz piano.
“Big Sexy: The Fats Waller Revue,” WBTT’s tribute to this irrepressible artist, features Waller’s signature songs, including “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Your Feet’s Too Big,” “The Joint is Jumpin’” and many more—as well as some lesser-known musical gems.
“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a show devoted to the music Waller made popular, debuted on Broadway in 1978. The show won numerous honors, including Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Nell Carter) as well as multiple Drama Desk and Theatre World awards.
WBTT staged the show in its 2010-2011 season – the first season at the troupe’s current location on Orange Avenue. Audiences loved it, and Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs has long wanted to further explore Waller’s story and music.
Jacobs has featured songs from the show in two productions of “Broadway in Black,” in 2017 and 2021, and even in “Broadway in Black Jr.,” starring Stage of Discovery students, in the summer of 2018.
“I’m excited to shine the spotlight on this one-of-a-kind, larger-than-life entertainer – I’ve been wanting to bring his story to the stage for some time,” says Jacobs, who is directing the production. “I’ve always been drawn to Waller and his music because he truly carved his own niche. Because of his persona, many people may have underestimated his musical prowess but – make no mistake – he was a serious, prolific musician.”
The cast of “Big Sexy” includes featured Troupe members and soloists Leon S. Pitts II and Ariel Blue, and Jazzmin Carson, Andrea Coleman and Ulric Taylor filling out the ensemble.
The creative team includes: Kevin White, production manager; Juanita Munford, production stage manager; KaCie Levy, assistant stage manager; Donna & Mark Buckalter, set designers; Michael Pasquini, lighting designer; Patrick Russini, sound designer; Donovan Whitney, dramaturg; Adrienne Pitts, costume designer; Dominique Freeman, wig designer; Annette Breazeale, properties designer; Dominique Freeman, wig designer; and Donald Frison, choreographer.WBTT’s live band will be featured onstage – led by Matthew McKinnon as Music Director and on the piano – with Jason Whitmore on reeds, Brad Foutch on guitar, Dan Daedicke on bass, and John Walker on drums.
Presenting sponsors are Dona and Sam Scott. The Exchange and numerous individuals are supporting the production through leading sponsorships.
Performances take place in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota) from April 19-May 28; showtimes are Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m. (A “Talkback” with cast and crew is scheduled for Sunday, April 30 after the matinee.) Tickets are $50/adults, $20/students and active military (cost includes all ticket fees). Call the Box Office at 941-366-1505 or visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.
Photo by Sorcha Augustine
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org for more information.