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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 23, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 08
Fats Waller musical at Seattle Musical Theatre - SMT's Ain't Misbehavin' touchingly recalls the true essence of the swinging era of boozy, smoky, sexy, and outrageous nightclub fun.
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Fats Waller musical at Seattle Musical Theatre - SMT's Ain't Misbehavin' touchingly recalls the true essence of the swinging era of boozy, smoky, sexy, and outrageous nightclub fun.

by Paul Torres - SGN Contributing Writer

AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
SEATTLE MUSICAL THEATRE
Through March 4


No one to talk with / All by myself / No one to walk with / I'm happy on the shelf /Ain't misbehavin' / I'm savin' my love for you are the classic lyrics that open Seattle Musical Theatre's latest production of Ain't Misbehavin' - The Fats Waller Musical. Their latest production transcends those well-worn descriptions of 'rollicking good time' and gives the audience a night of sheer down-home entertainment, if we were lucky enough to be down home in a Harlem jazz club in the 1930s, that is.

The marvelous performers shine on this stage that is set as a cocktail club with a live jazz band. The cast have an abundance of talent in their respective roles. Directors Teresa Thuman and Savannah Brittian have near magical skills in illuminating the best from the already talented troupe.

With cocktails in hand, the performers sing and dance their way through the evening with style, class, and soul. Ain't Misbehavin' honors the life of eminent jazz pianist Thomas 'Fats' Waller who is celebrated for his innovative modern jazz. In this musical, his portrait hangs near the stage as a luminary-god guiding his performer-disciples of song and dance giving the congregation some churchin' in the form of great musical entertainment.

The production itself is in the style of a musical revue; six performers sing through a night of songs including the upbeat classic opener 'Ain't Misbehavin' and the catchy 'The Joint is Jumpin' through slower numbers such as the exquisite 'Ladies Who Sing with the Band', burlesque style songs like 'Yacht Club Swing', soulful songs like 'Mean to Me,' and mournful tunes in the unforgettable spiritual ballad 'Black and Blue.' They even include a rambunctious call and response number called 'Fat and Greasy' (the audience enthusiastically chiming out 'fat and greeeezie!' on cue after 'Man that fool is&'). They show off their sense of humor in 'Your Feet's too Big' about a guy whose gal's feet are too big. She wasn't having any of it in her follow-up tune, 'That Ain't Right' where she musically and physically puts him in his place. They get a bit risqué with 'The Vipers Drag' an audacious ode to marijuana smoking complete with a joint as long as walking stick.

Musical Director Darrius Willrich reigns supreme in Ain't Misbehavin'. The music supplies an unrivaled energy with the interplay of Charles Simmons' amazing choreography - it's seemingly simple jazz jitterbug moves and tap dancing, but little gestured nuances like coy winks, hands on hips, and 'in the know' strutting add to the Harlem-wise vibe of its era.

The strength of this jazz ensemble on stage is absolutely thrilling. Drums and bass are key to any production like this. Drummer Scot Sexton is pure energy and Geoff Harper is IT on standup bass. The rest of the musicians diane fast on piano, Jason Harper on trumpet, Reginald Commodore on sax, Greg Schroeder on trombone, Dexter Stevens and Tim Webster on reeds give a revved up vitality to the acts.

Reina Strohmayer's costumes in this are stunning. The women are gorgeous in purple, rose, and yellow with spectacular patterns and styles that define that great American jazz era. The men are appropriately dapper in smooth suits, ties, topped off with stylish hats from that time.

The musical includes six powerful singers portraying six delightful characters. Brenda Melrose as Dorothy LaRue is splendidly feisty in 'That Ain't Right.' As Carmelia Smithart, Cammi Smith delivers the vocal goods in 'I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling,' a true highlight of the night. DeSean Halley plays William Earl Jackson whose rendition of 'T Aint Nobody's Business' is an outright smash. As Langston Livingston, DuWayne Andrews displays his musical prowess in the perfectly melancholic 'I'm Gonna Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter.' Patrick Tolden becomes Curtis J. Lamar whose over the top performance in the aforementioned 'The Viper Drag' gave the evening some sweet and naughty frivolity. As Mercedes Savoy, Kiery Vida Valdez lights up the stage with her gifted voice in 'Yacht Club Swing,' a righteous tribute to jazz era's version of girl pop music.

Seattle Musical Theatre definitely knows how to punch up a much revered stage show about a mighty talent like Fats Waller. This production touchingly recalls the true essence of the swinging era of boozy, smoky, sexy, and outrageous nightclub fun. Yes, the joint was jumpin' as you should be. Ain't Misbehavin' - The Fats Waller Musical Show is a must see!

Ain't Misbehavin' continues at Seattle Musical Theatre (7120 62nd Ave NE) located in Magnuson Park (main entrance at 7400 Sand Point Way NE) through March 4. Tickets: 206-363-2809 and www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org.

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