In the Middle of “Misbehavin’”
With Latest Role, Young Alum Expands Presence on D.C. Theater Scene
Korinn Walfall’s first-ever audition didn’t stick to the script. Then 13 years old, she forgot the words to “My Favorite Things,” regaining her footing only when the choreographer began singing along with her.
Despite the mishap, she landed the role of the Yellow Brick Road in her school’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” and has been singing and acting ever since.
Now Walfall, who graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre, is starring in “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which is in the midst of a nearly seven-week run at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. The 53-show production, set in a New York City jazz club in 1934, features the music of Harlem Renaissance entertainer Fats Waller, as performed by the cast of just five.
“We’re showing audiences what it’s like to be an African-American performer doing this job in that time period and the things that go on behind-the-scenes that bleed onto the stage,” said Walfall. “It consistently challenges me every single day, and I work so hard to try and nail it.”
Director Joe Calarco has a cinematic vision for the show: Audiences see the actors not only on stage, but also “backstage” in character, dealing with personal issues between numbers. “What Signature has always done with our musical revivals is have our audience see it through a different lens,” he said.
This show is the latest of several in Walfall’s career post-graduation. She was in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” also at Signature Theatre, as well as the national tour of “Amazing Grace: The Broadway Musical.” Last year, she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award—the D.C. version of the Tonys—for her role in “Caroline, or Change” at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda.
Calarco isn’t surprised by Walfall’s success. “I’ve known Korinn as a talent for a long time,” he said. He was so impressed by her previous work that he offered her the role in “Ain’t Misbehavin’” without auditioning anyone else.
Walfall credits her training at Maryland for helping build her confidence in her skills. She cited faculty members Brian MacDevitt, Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig, co-directors of 2014’s “Spring Awakening,” as particular sources of inspiration.
“[MacDevitt] made me feel like I was on Broadway with that show, and [Pearson and Widrig] helped me feel confident with my movement,” she said. “Maryland did a good job of creating a well-rounded performer and someone that’s not just cookie cutter.”