Thomas “Fats” Waller (Music)
27 February – 26 May, 1928
A follow-up to Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s smash hit Shuffle Along (1921), which starred Joséphine Baker, and was the show that is credited with making black music acceptable to Broadway audiences. Although not on stage in Keep Shufflin’, Waller made a considerable impression with his exuberant piano playing from the show’s orchestra pit at Daly’s Theatre.
“In many ways a reprise of Shuffle Along...The musical brought back their characters Sam Peck and Steve Jenkins.” This time around, the two were presented at “benevolent would-be bank robbers literally dreaming up schemes to make themselves and everyone else rich.” Ultimately, they decide that so much wealth would be valueless and their good intentions prove fruitless. The play was interpreted as an attack against Communism, but the playwrights maintained than any political connotation were “coincidental” and they were only concerned with the value of the story. (Source: Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance by Aberjhani, Sandra L. West)