Game Changers: The Broadway Musicals That Shaped the Art Form

By Ben Rimalower
29 Mar 2014

Ain't Misbehavin' (1978)

The jukebox musical has become a much maligned genre, with many people balking at its bringing Vegas-style revues to Broadway, although when a jukebox show is a hit, like Jersey Boys or Mamma Mia!, the jeers are drowned out by the cheers. Still, it's hard to believe this mega-genre started with the intimate Ain't Misbehavin', which began life, pre-Broadway, in Manhattan Theatre Club's former cabaret space on the Upper East Side. Just five brilliant, versatile actor-singers breathing life into timeless Fats Waller tunes carried more than enough story, character, comedy and drama inherent in each song. There was no need for a real plot, or much connective tissue. Of course, there were revues before and Off-Broadway's long-running, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, which had a briefly played Broadway in 1972, but Ain't Misbehavin' ushered in the trend that is still going strong today.