There are few things more American, insists Hayes Fields, than jazz music.
“It truly is an American form of music, and to see and learn how it exploded into popular culture beyond the Harlem Renaissance is amazing,” said Fields, one of five singers in a cast of nine performers sharing the stage in the Albany Civic Theater’s production of “Ain’t Misbehavin,’ ” opening Friday and running through Feb. 21. “People from all different cultures embraced it. It’s the music that kind of held this country together.”
‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ ’
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Feb. 21; show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $18-$10
MORE INFO: 462-1297, www.albanycivictheater.org
Michael C. Mensching is directing the ACT production, named after the 1929 song written by Fats Waller. The show was first staged by the Manhattan Theatre Club in February of 1978 and tells the story of the Harlem Renaissance that took place in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s.
It is a musical revue, and sharing the stage with Fields are four singers, Leo D’Juan, Barbara N. Howard, Kim Marsh and Samara Miller, and four dancers, Shaun Franklin, Meloni Griffin, Gregory Theodore Marsh and Neyonna Watson.
Display for talent
“There’s no real story line, but it takes each cast person and utilizes what they do best,” said Fields. “We use our real names, just like they did in the original production, and we each offer our own rendition.
“The show is a wonderful representation of the music from that time, and we put our own little twists to each song and dance. These are wonderful little vignettes, with a lot of entertainment value. We have some very, very good talent.”
A New York City native, Fields has been singing and performing for as long as he can remember.
“I don’t know about being a natural-born performer, but I feel like I’ve been performing since I was born,” he said, laughing.
“I grew up in a family of singers, and by the time I was 5, I was singing in church with my mother and my three sisters. We were called the Fields singers. We sang all around the tri-state area. Gospel singers were pretty popular back then. We would travel around the circuit, and I was quite proud of us.”
Fields, who works as a data center supervisor, moved to the Albany area in 2001. While he’s got plenty of theater credits on his resume, most of his performing lately has come as a member of the group Restored, which is based out of the New Bethel Community Church in Rotterdam.
Different from church
“The stage is a little different than singing in church,” said Fields, who also sang with the Refrigerators, a popular horn-fueled party band here in the Capital Region.
“But I’ve been involved in a lot of different musical things in my life and I enjoy all of them. I even had the long dreads and was the front man for the Refrigerators for a couple of years. That was a lot of fun.”
While this is Fields’ first time performing on the ACT stage, he did write original music for the troupe’s production last June of George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum,” a series of 11 “exhibits” or scenes that satirically portray portions of African-American culture.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]
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