Ain't Misbehavin opened in the Manhattan Theatre Club's East 73rd Street cabaret on February 8, 1978. The cast included Irene Cara, Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, and Ken Page and was staged by Maltby. The New York Times reviewer wrote: "The show moves with the zing and sparkle of a Waller recording-filled with bright melodies and asides." Its reception was such that it was decided to develop it into a full-scale production.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on May 9, 1978, and transferred to the Plymouth Theatre and then to the Belasco Theatre and closed on February 21, 1982 after 1604 performances and fourteen previews. Maltby was the director, with musical staging and choreography by Arthur Faria. The original cast featured Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard. Luther Henderson adapted Waller's music for the revue and served as the production's original pianist. Replacements later in the run included Debbie Allen, Yvette Freeman, Adriane Lenox, and Alan Weeks. An original cast recording was released by RCA Victor.
The West End production opened on March 22, 1979 at Her Majesty's Theatre. DeShields and Woodard were joined by Evan Bell, Annie Joe Edwards, and Jozella Reed. It was revived in London in 1995 at the Tricycle Theatre and then the Lyric Theatre, with Debby Bishop, Dawn Hope, Melanie Marshall, Sean Palmer, and Ray Shell. A London revival cast recording was released by First Night.
On June 12, 1982, NBC broadcast the revue with the original Broadway cast.
A Broadway revival with the same director, choreographer, and cast as the original 1978 production opened on August 15, 1988 at the Ambassador Theatre, where it ran for 176 performances and eight previews. Frank Rich, in his review for The New York Times, wrote "In their scrupulous re-creation of the Fats Waller show that first electrified Broadway a decade ago, the original cast and creators have conjured the same between-the-wars dream world as before... Though almost bereft of dialogue, this musical anthology expands beyond its form to become a resurrection of a great black artist's soul. Perhaps the key to the musical's approach, as conceived by the director Richard Maltby Jr., is its willingness to let Waller speak simply and eloquently for himself, through his art but without show-biz embroidery."
In 1995, a national tour starred the Pointer Sisters, Eugene Barry-Hill, and Michael-Leon Wooley. Although it never reached Broadway as originally planned, a recording of highlights from the show was released by RCA.
Beginning in November 2008 and lasting until at least May 2009, season two American Idol contestants Frenchie Davis, Trenyce Cobbins and winner Ruben Studdard starred in the 30th anniversary national tour of the show. A new cast recording has been made and is available on the Rhino label.