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Through August 29 2021

Review: AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'  THE FATS WALLER MUSICAL SHOW at Candlelight Music Theatre

Ain't Misbehavin': The Fats Waller Musical Show, is a different juke box show from Candlelight's previous production of BEEHIVE. From the rock n' roll of 60's we time travel back 30- years to the American jazz pianist Waller. His innovations in the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano. In 1922, at the tender age of 18, he produced his first piano roll, "Got To Cool My Doggies Now." (I had to mention that only because the title cracked me up).

While his most popular tunes were the aforementioned title and "Honey Suckle Rose", the audience will be treated to 30 songs of the era that he either wrote, co-wrote or made popular. Bottom line? The "The Joint Will Be Jumpin'" at every performance.

The opener, "Ain't Misbehavin,'" was rife with choral harmony and choreography. Program notes state that both the original choreography and musical staging was created by Arthur Faria. I am unsure if Director and Choreographer Devon Sinclair used that or conceived his own (Aisle Say saw the show at DE Theatre Co years ago), but it certainly worked. The hand movements were joyous and immediately engaged the audience. The strutting reminds one of the movie "Cotton Club." "This Joint Is Jumpin' ended Act I with a frenetic, but organized chaos.

Tiffany Dawn Christopher's "Honey Suckle Rose" was a paean to the women of jazz who came before her: Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday, to name the most prominent. She did it more than justice. Accompanying her was Bri'yon Brinson, an expressive performer with great voice and style. Christopher mined the depths of her voice for the guttural notes in "Cash For Trash" and channels some Jennifer Holliday in "Mean To Me."

Sierra Wilson, making her Candlelight debut, soared with "Squeeze Me." Her vocal range goes through many octaves and her high notes on this song were spine tingling. While there is little dialogue in the show, she exhibited her comedic chops as the ego maniacal in-house diva, attempting to best the two other ladies to grab the limelight. Wilson's expressions were quite amusing...and most annoying to Tiffany!

Gabrielle Hines did a smoky, provocative "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now", reminiscent of Lena Horne. She and Bryan Jeffrey dance a very athletic number that drew spontaneous applause.

Fats Waller came up with some of the funniest titles and lyrics. Andre Dion Wills owned "Your Feets Too Big." Wills does a superlative drunk in testifying that his woman is cursed with humongous feet. He supports this conclusion with hysterical facts. Sadly, the poor man can't go out with her 'cause her feets too big. A show-stopper. (Personally, I don't have that problem. My gfriend's feet look like they were bound by the Chinese). That ditty must be great fun to sing. What a hoot!

The most riveting - and Aisle Say must say - mesmerizing solo was "The Viper's Drag." Bryan Jeffrey unleashed the Ben Vereen deep in his consciousness. Employing fluid Fosse-type moves, all one could think of was the charismatic Vereen in "Pippin." With the collective talent on stage, one hesitates to say this number is worth the price of admission, but no one will soon forget this performance. This dude is for real. They say, "Do you feel me?'" Answer: "Yes."

There is no doubt that Waller and other Black performers faced racism every time they mounted the stage. "Black and Blue", written in 1929, was sung by the entire company. The lyrics spoke to these issues. Waller was known for his comedic, up tempo jazz style, but this tune brought us to reality. During the choral parts, it is reminiscent of George and Ira Gershwin's spirituals in "Porgy and Bess."

Music Director Joshua Sommerville has quite an impressive resume. He played all the tunes on an upright piano upstage right. Kudos to he and Devon Sinclair for an outstanding production.

Jeff Reim has lately become the 'resident' Scenic Designer. In his unit set, he created a trompe l'oeil illusion on the steps. Quite innovative.

Costumer Timothy Lamont Cannon chose colorful, glittery pastels for the women. The men were attired mainly in 3-piece suits and fedoras. All were smartly indicative of the period.

Sound Designers never get recognition...unless something goes amok. Kudos to stage star Dennis Mahoney and colleague Aaron Kirschner over the years. We HEAR you, Dennis and Aaron! We are grateful.

Clayton Stacey did his per usual masterful job on wigs and makeup. Superb photography by Tisa Della-Volpe!

The meals were well proportioned, nicely presented and tasty. The joint is jumpin' on those garlic potatoes. Yum!. Aisle Say in not an anti-vaxer; just the opposite. However, he is definitely an anti-brussel sproutser. And, for those idiot anti-vaxers, Candlelight and other live performance venues can very well shut down again if you retain this "freedom" message. How many people have died from COVID now wishing they had gotten the jab? Shout out to our server, the perky Shannon. She's a trip.

The recurring line in the show is "One never knows, do one?". We do know, however, this show is a hit.

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From This Author - Greer Firestone

Greer Firestone has been reviewing professional theatre for 35 years. As a playwright he wrote and produced JUDY GARLAND "Wor... (read more about this author)

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