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Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts

The production runs until October 2nd

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
Will Mann and David LaMarr in TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

Fats Waller is one of the many black artists whose music still permeates popular culture over the centuries. His stylistic rhythms are part of the foundation of the quintessential American sound. Due to this, his musical revue AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' is a tremendous work of art. TUTS season-opening production not only does his music incredibly justice but also provides a night of theater that one will never forget.


Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
Paris Bennett in TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' is a musical revue of a production featuring the vocal stylings of three female and two male singers, singing Fats Waller tunes at their absolute best. Since its original Broadway premiere in the 70s, this musical always presents the best of black singers, and the TUTS production is no exception. The entire production is one of the most superior currently seen on a Houston stage. It has set a very high precedent for what theaters are to produce this post-pandemic season.

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
Paris Bennett, David LaMarr and Melrose Johnson in TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

Performances by its five actors are magnificent. Every performer has a fantastic chance to shine and luster as a group and as individuals. This musical revue is truly an ensemble piece. Still, it does a tremendous job of letting audience members revel in each performer's charisma. David LaMarr provides a sensuous performance as the group's tenor, Andre. Lamarr does a fantastic job of personifying depression-era masculinity while also providing the sultry dulcet tones to make audience members' hearts aquiver. Next is Will Mann as Ken, a giant in both voice and stature and has one of the most powerful bari-tenor voices I have ever heard. I last saw this magnificent performer pre-pandemic in a production of Oklahoma. While I did not worry that he would still be a tremendous singer, I was pleasantly surprised to see him be especially magnificent with Fats Waller's music. Paris Bennett as Nell was exceptionally fantastic. Upon completing her star-turning rendition of "Mean to Me," I could not stop smiling at how lucky I was to experience her performance. I noticed that Ashley Tamar Davis consuming and riveting rendition ofYacht Club Swing left the on-stage members in awe. Finally, Melrose Johnson as Armelia was astounding in both vocal and acting ability. This staging is Johnson's professional musical stage debut. It is easy to understand why they cast this newcomer, for they provide a performance that allows audience members to shimmy and shake right along with her. I see a big future for Johnson, and I hope we get to see them perform again on a Houston stage.

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
Will Mann in TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

Where Ain't Misbehavin' also shines are the choreography and design elements of the production. Scenic Designer Tim Mackabee and Lighting Designer Fabian J. Garcia have led an outstanding team in creating a speakeasy for audience members to revel in. At the same time, choreographer Courtney D. Jones has done an incredible job of leading these performers into great dance numbers that will leave one feeling that one can shimmy and shake right along with them. This creative team, led by TUTS directing debut and Associate Artistic Director, Monique Midgette, has done some stellar work. I can't wait to see what else Midgette has in store for other productions and performances, for one call feel their love for the theatrical stage.

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
Ashley Tamar Davis in TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

While I know I tend to enjoy much of what Houston theater has to offer, Ain't Misbehavin' is the embodiment of the best musical theater in Space City, USA. I hope to make a return trip to the Hobby Center, sit on stage, and fully immerse myself in this incredible and delectable production. If this is only the beginning of what TUTS offers this season, I can't wait for what will come.

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
David LaMarr in TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

Ain't Misbehavin by Fats Waller is produced by TUTS and is currently performing at Sarofim Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tuesday thru Thursday evening performances begins at 7:30 PM. Friday and Saturday evening performances start at 8:00 PM, and matinees on Saturday and Sunday begin at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be bought at tuts.com or the Hobby Center Box Office at 800 Bagby St.

Review: TUTS AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Oozes Charisma at Hobby Center for Performing Arts
Ashley Tamar Davis, Will Mann, Melrose Johnson, David LaMarr, and Paris Bennett TUTS production of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
Photo by Melissa Taylor

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From This Author - Armando Urdiales

Armando Urdiales (He/Him/His)”: A second year MS in Theatre Studies at the University of Houston, I have been obsessed with theater since I was a kid. My mothers lullabies were from Andrew Ll... (read more about this author)


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Fats Waller is one of the many black artists over the centuries whose music still permeates popular culture. His stylistic rhythms are part the foundation of the quintessential American sound and it is due to this that his musical revue AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ is a tremendous work of art. TUTS season opening production not only does his music incredibly justice but also provides a night of theater that one simply will never forget.