Fats Waller is celebrated in a musical being staged by the Oxfordshire Touring Theatre Company, writes ANGIE JOHNSON

The motto of the Oxfordshire Touring Theatre Company - Big Theatre in Small Spaces - has never rung more true than now while they are working away on their upcoming all-singing, all-dancing production of Ain't Misbehavin'.

This gutsy small company is planning to restage this hit Broadway musical in bijou venues in and around Oxfordshire and beyond. With a cast of five and a band of three, OTTC is aiming to recreate the magic of the Jazz Age, seen through the work of the legendary Fats Waller.

Waller, a skilled pianist as well as composer, was one of the most popular performers of his era, finding success in the US and Europe.

Featuring such great songs as The Joint is Jumpin', Two Sleepy People, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby, and, of course, the title song, we can expect not only a high-octane show but one with pathos and humour. Village halls will have the air of a speakeasy or a Harlem club.

When I saw the performers in rehearsal, they were being put through their dancing paces. As choreographer Sue Colgrave said: "We are creating dances very much in the style of The Cotton Club and other jazz clubs of those days. It's going to be very faithful to the 1920s, very sexy and sweaty."

I asked about the differences between the choreography suitable for its previous incarnation on the West End stage and one feasible for the community venues.

"Yes, it is different, but that is what is making it such a great project to work on. Precisely because of this we are developing a style that much more reflects the size of the original clubs where this music was heard. It is much more of a dance-floor style, it's individual and enjoyable."

Music director Dominic Harlan also agrees about the more powerful intimacy that is created by the nature of the venues. He calls it "close up and personal music".

He is finding working with the five performers very exciting because "they each have a very different quality both as singers and actors".

It is also fascinating that the show constantly groups and regroups the performers in a range of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces. There are 25 numbers' in the show, including an extravaganza at the end which is guaranteed to lift the audience off its feet.

This is the first time that OTTC have staged a musical, but it's also the last show for the outgoing artistic director Brendan Murray, who after five years at the helm is now planning to concentrate more on his work as a playwright. But he is passionate about this show.

As he told me: "I saw it first in 1979 and absolutely loved it, and when I thought about it for OTTC I wondered if I was being totally crazy. But this is what our mission is - to be really ambitious with what we tour and I'm so glad we have been able to make it happen."

During his time at the OTTC Brendan has directed many different shows, from serious pieces such as Athol Fugard's People Are Living Here and the modern slice of country life, The Falling Sky, to magical Christmas shows like The Firebird, and the ground-breaking signed production of Under Milk Wood. So it is no surprise that he is enjoying doing something different yet again.

Another change for the company is that this is their debut co-production with the Pegasus Theatre. Euton Daley, the Pegasus's artistic director, said: "It was a sensible move. OTTC have this fantastic company but no theatre, we have a great theatre but no resident company. It provides mutual support and we have been able to share our expertise."

Euton, who was awarded an MBE in the recent Honours List, said: "We had been involved in commissioning new work from various companies and this was the next natural step."

The show opens at the Pegasus in Magdalen Road, Oxford, from Wednesday to Saturday, March 8. It then visits Islip village hall (March 11), Begbroke Village Hall (March 12), Lains Barn, Ardington (March 13), Chilton Village Hall (March 14), Shutford Village Hall (March 15), Ramsden Village Hall (March 18), The Players' Theatre. Thame (March 19 and 20), Cassington Village Hall (March 21), and Wendlebury Village Hall (March 22). It then returns to the county in April with performances at Morris Memorial Hall. Kelmscott (April 8), Shrivenham Memorial Hall (April 9), and rounding off with The Theatre, Chipping Norton, from April 10-12. For inquiries email info@ottc.oxfordshire.co.uk