Always Misbehavin'

Former St. Louisan Ken Page knows Ain't Misbehavin' inside and out.

Not to worry. Page next took Ain't Misbehavin' to Paris for nine months. "Glorious," he says of the experience. "The show was as big a hit there as it had been in America. This was 1980, and Paris was still in love with the Jazz Age of Harlem. At that point most of Waller's RCA Victor recordings were still being issued from RCA Paris. Those nine months were the best time of my life. We were the talk of the town, and that made a lot of doors open. So I saw Paris from a very privileged place."

The mega-hit Cats, Page's next Broadway show, was the polar extreme of Ain't Misbehavin'. No actors' names are ever mentioned in Catsadvertising; the production is the star. "Cats had already been a big hit in London," Page says. "Our task was to re-create the musical in its fullest form. Yes, it was to the producers' benefit to keep everyone as anonymous as possible, but during that period I also did my cabaret act so I could maintain a profile of myself as an actor and not get lost in the shuffle of fur. But how can you complain about being a part of something as huge as Cats was? You're just lucky to be in it."

Page has re-created his Cats and Ain't Misbehavin' roles at the Muny, where for the past thirteen summers he has been a mainstay. Last March he received one of the first Kevin Kline Awards for his showy Muny turn as Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar. In March he'll return to St. Louis to host the second annual Kevins at the Roberts Orpheum Theater — and he hopes to be invited back to Forest Park this summer.

Ken Page: "We did that show for God and grace and glory."
Ken Page: "We did that show for God and grace and glory."

Details

Through February 4. Tickets are $17 to $40. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square.

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Meanwhile he's waxing enthusiastic about Dreamgirls. "It's a gorgeous film, absolutely thrilling," he enthuses. "There are moments in it that give you goosebumps. And I'm not just saying that because I'm in it. When I talk about Dreamgirls, I'm like a fan. This is a unique piece of material. Narrow it down. How many musicals do they film today? Of those, how many have an African-American cast and story? You can count on one hand the films in that genre. Stormy Weather, Porgy and Bess, The Wiz, although it was terrible. The last time we had anything approaching this quality was Carmen Jones in 1954. In that one film you see Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Pearl Bailey, Dorothy Dandridge — and you realize these were the top performing people of that era. The same is true here. So Dreamgirlsis like a time capsule. To have been chosen to be part of something that I know will stand in history for my own people is a really wonderful thing."

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