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If you go
What: “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ”
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Admission: Tickets, $29 to $48, are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and charge-by-phone, 424-1811.
Courtesy photo
Ruben Studdard (second from left) is part of an all-“Idol” cast of the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin.’ ”

‘Idol' fascination fuels ‘Ain't Misbehavin' '

Velvet Teddy Bear seems too easy a nickname for a hefty guy who sings R&B.

The “American Idol” marketing team should have tried harder.

Then again, Velvet Teddy Bear may be the only name for a guy who laughs the way “Idol” champ Ruben Studdard does, even when he’s discussing something unpleasant.

The laugh burbles up from the depths like something savory in the slow cooker or something sweet in a saucepan.

Studdard will appear Monday with former “Idol” cohorts in the Fats Waller revue “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” at Embassy Theatre.

The tour is probably something of a gimmick – combining a beloved musical with some recent celebs – but what sentient person who had heard Studdard sing would not be tickled at the prospect of having him wrap his soaring soulfulness around some vintage Waller?

Studdard says he was familiar with Waller before he was asked to join “Ain’t Misbehavin’, ” but he was not familiar with the show. The biggest challenge thus far has been stamina, he says.

“Everybody has to have the same amount of energy from the start of the show to the end,” he says by phone. “You don’t want any part of the show to suffer. Even when you are just sitting down onstage in the show, you have to stay focused.

“It’s hard not to let the mind wander. You can’t do that if you’re part of a five-person cast. The only time everybody’s not onstage is when someone is singing a spotlight solo.”

The cast learned the musical in three days so a CD could be cranked out.

Now that Studdard has lived with the show for a while, he wishes he could go back and re-record it.

“I think if we did it now, it would be a million times better,” he says. “The record company’s in love with it. But we’re really in character now. (The cast’s renditions) didn’t have as much life as they do now.”

Like a lot of “Idol” winners and runners-up, Studdard has had a spotty post-series career. But Studdard says everything that has happened in the five years since he won the TV talent show (including his recent marriage to a fan) wouldn’t have happened at all without “Idol,” so he’s grateful.

“I’ve been really blessed,” he says. “I have been blessed with the opportunity to do such a historical play, to be involved with such great music. My career is still at an early stage, so this is monumental.

“It’s only going to get better, man,” he says.

He ain’t just whistling Waller.

Studdard’s got a project in the pipeline that is sure to excite even the least “Idol”-atrous among us.

But before we get to that, let’s get some bad press out of the way first.

In December 2007, Studdard parted ways with J Records after three albums.

The media claimed Studdard was let go, but Studdard says it was a mutual decision.

“As usual, the whole situation was blown out of context,” Studdard says. “We all decided it was time to move on. It was amazing to me that the story was that J Records had dropped me. Because we had all come to a really good situation.

“I guess all press is good press,” he says, offering up another one of those burbling laughs.

Which brings us to Studdard’s big news – news that proves he is far from damaged goods.

Studdard’s next album, which will be released on Sony Music offshoot Hickory Records, is being produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Jam and Lewis are the former members of funk band The Time who engineered some of the funkiest albums of the ’80s and ’90s, including most of Janet Jackson’s output.

“I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised,” Studdard says.

spen@jg.net

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