Great Lakes Theatre’s ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ is toe tappin’ terrif
It was four years ago that “Ain’t Misbehavin’” was scheduled to appear on stage at the Hanna Theatre but...well you know...some stuff got in the way of that. Finally, opening night was had and it has been entirely worth the wait.
Thomas “Fats” Waller was a musician of extreme note in the 1920’s and 30’s who tragically passed away in 1943 from pneumonia at the age of 39. Raised in a church musical family his preacher father regarded the popular music of the time as “from the devil’s workshop.” When his mother passed away in 1920 Fats left home. Meeting James P. Johnson who was the father of the ragtime jazz style called “Harlem Stride” The talented young Waller perfected his craft.
Soon, the 18 year old was a recording artist along with cutting piano rolls as well as “touring” to such cities as Philadelphia and Chicago. Although too young to be a part of the original Broadway show “Shuffle Along” Fats was instrumental in later revues such as “Tan Town Topics” and “Keep Shufflin”. During his short musical career it is estimated that Thomas Waller wrote over 400 compositions with many sold to white performers who never acknowledged his contributions.
For this lively memorial of sound, twenty seven songs are presented as an extended cabaret show. The cast consists of Tyrick Wiltez Jones as Andre, Jessie Cope Miller as Armelia, Brittney Mack as Charlain, Colleen Longshaw as Nell, David Robbins as Ken and William Knowles playing the piano as Fats Waller. The band is made up of Ray DeForest on Bass, Juan Ingram on Trumpet, Eric Richmond on Trombone, Emillo Rosario on Reed and Elijah Gilmore on Drums.
To say the least, The Joint Is Jumping!!! The show is an easy mix of ballads, romantic melodies and foot stomping jazz that will have you singing along, laughing along and tapping along for the entire fast passing 150 minutes. There is a healthy dose of naughty lyrics and situations that is absolutely delightful.
You will surprise yourself at the extent that your memory will recall all the lyrics for such tunes as “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “’Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-Ness If I Do”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “The Joint Is Jumping”, “Your Feet’s Too Big”, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”
The stage set by Stanley A. Meyer is a perfect replica of a Harlem Jazz Joint of the 30s with an appropriate Art Deco feel. The piano is an old style upright that is effortlessly wheeled around the stage. There are two tables with glasses and bottles where the singers lounge between their numbers. A large round panel hides the orchestra but later opens to reveal them. Trad A Burns Lighting is bright and airy and the sound design by David Gotwald fills the theater with an amazing celebration of sound. The cast is outfitted in various costumes by Dustin Cross who matches the time period and tastes. Iran Micheal Lion does the hair and wig design. The show is directed and choreographed by Gerry McIntyre.
Has April showers put you in a funk? Break out of it with the joyful noise of a show that will have you out of those doldrums in a hurry. This fast moving collection of beloved classics will have you smiling all the way home. This show cannot not help but give you anything but love. Definitely check this one out!
The Great Lakes Theatre production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” will be on stage in the Hanna Theatre, 2067 E. 14th Street, Cleveland, Ohio at Playhouse Square through May 21, 2023. For tickets and more information go to https://www.greatlakestheater.org/ or call (216) 241-6000.