Theater Review: “Ain’t Misbehavin’"

Cynthia Thomas, Tony Perry, Yvonne, Ron Christopher Jones and Anise Ritchie
Photo credit:
Aaron Rumley

What do you get when you take a quintet of terrific singing and dancing actors, add some 30 songs of the Harlem Renaissance period by the inimitable Fats Waller, and combine that with a killer backup combo?

Why, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the multiple Tony-winning revue (conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz) that clocked some 1600 performances on Broadway between 1978-82 and has been an audience favorite ever since.

North Coast Repertory Theatre has tapped Yvette Freeman to direct a superb quartet consisting of Yvonne, Cynthia Thomas, Ron Christopher Jones, Anise Ritchie and Tony Perry, along with an equally fine quintet of musicians directed by Lanny Hartley, for a sprightly edition of this delightful show that Freeman describes as a “musical biography of Fats Waller.”

You’ll hear the sassy and sad, seductive, swingin’ and simply sensational in a show with singers looking as good as they sound in costume designer Anastasia Paulova’s spiffy period costumes.

Tapping your toes is nearly inevitable; dancing in the aisles optional as this gang swings through “’Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” and “Cash For Your Trash” and of course “This Joint Is Jumpin’” (Don’t give your right name!)

Ritchie shines in the poignant “Mean To Me;” Perry can be seen “Lounging At The Waldorf” in style; Jones dreams about a five-foot reefer in “The Viper’s Drag.”

Thomas and Ritchie are a kick as they show the ladies how to treat their men in “Find Out What They Like.”

The new kid on the block, recent SDSU grad Yvonne, demonstrates the chops (and has the voice) to make it big in musical theater.

There are no weak spots in this cast, nor in the band. Those members – Kevin Toney, Danny King, Greg McKinney, Julian Davis and Malcolm Jones – do Waller’s music proud.

I could go on listing songs, but you get the idea. The show’s a winner and a welcome pick-me-up from the dreariness of the current political situation. The audience even gets to sing and/or clap along. What more can you ask?

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” plays through August 7. Get those tickets now.

The Details

“Ain’t Misbehavin,’ The Fats Waller Musical Show)” plays through August 7, 2016 at  North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or northcoastrep.org