“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a joyful blend of musical theatre and jazz
Solano College Theatre’s production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” set out to entertain, and it sure delivered. This Fats Waller musical is an infectious joy and brilliant ode to Harlem Renaissance music in the 1920s and ‘30s. The musical is certainly one of a kind, since it’s nearly a record album come to life. There are almost no dialogue breaks, just musical performers singing and dancing their way through joyous songs.
The cast of performers is backed up by a background band and constantly support the cast with their sound. The orchestra led by pianist Joseph Anderson brings an equal jazz partnership to the cast. Most of the band in the musical includes clarinet and alto sax players David Henderson and Bill Aron, trumpet player Tim Accosta, and drummer Kevin Menegus (to name a few) who bring a sophisticated assist to the impressive musical voices of the cast.
The band’s brightest moments come in the songs, “The Viper’s Drag” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” The setting of the musical comes together nicely with most of the action taking place in nightclubs and jazz cafes. A huge compliment goes to staging manager Stephine Whitehed for making the stage move seamlessly in the background of this musical.
As much as the band and the staging helps “Ain’t Misbehavin’” stand out, it’s really the cast who steal the show with their high energy, shown in their dance moves and lovely voices. Among the standouts in this fun and talented cast is Bobby Ellison, a man with a loud and fun boisterous personality in his voice. Ellison is quite the lead singer in such songs such as “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Your Feet’s Too Big.” Robin Murray’s voice is quite lyrically distinctive and has the voice of someone who belongs in the Metropolitan Opera. Camryn Hutchinson and Aris-Allen Roberson have impressive showmanship in their dance moves while also performing their songs. Honestly the whole cast from Jennifer Marie Fields to Adam Wayne Gistarb is impressive.
During both acts the cast performs at the very least 15 songs without a break of dialogue in the entire act. One song after another, the cast performs from a high energy jazz song to a slow ballad that slows the pace quite a bit. The musical is an album come to life, with the cast never missing a beat to Fats Waller’s music. Guided by Dyan McBride’s direction, the cast and the band move swiftly from the tone of the stylish musings of nightlife drugs in the song “The Viper’s Drag” to the very moving love tones of “Mean to Me.” Not one beat is missed and the transition is nothing but smooth. It’s an impressive and gargantuan task for the cast who deserve kudos to perform one different musical beat after another.
In short, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a fun musical ride. Its purpose is to have a grand old time. Almost everyone from the band to the cast to the lighting and staging crew have delivered a musical so enjoyable and infectious, you can’t help but feel that negativity will cease to exist. Perhaps this was the intention of a Fats Waller musical, to just sit back and enjoy music and life.
The show will continue until Feb. 26, so see it while you still can! Additional information on times and tickets can be found at solanocollegetheatre.org