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BWW Review: AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' at Omaha Community Playhouse

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a toe-tappin good time and another success in a standout season for Omaha Community Playhouse.

BWW Review: AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' at Omaha Community Playhouse

If you find yourself looking for a night out on the town with lights, dancing, and a whole lot of swing and jazz, Omaha Community Playhouse's production of Ain't Misbehavin' is the place to be. Ain't Misbehavin' opened on Broadway in 1978, ran for just short of three years, and even picked up both a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Musical. A tribute to the musical talents of Thomas "Fats" Waller, Ain't Misbehavin' is a musical revue for the swing and jazz enthusiast in you.

One thing to note is that there is no real plot or dialogue, and the show is presented concert style, which was a surprise to me as I had little-to-no knowledge of the show prior to my experience at preview night. The dancing is exciting. The harmonies are great. But I miss the story. I miss the audience and actor connection created in a script crafted in typical musicals. Without dialogue, the audience is left to hold onto the lyrics of the songs, and while many of the lyrics I understood are fun and at times even an important call for reflection, there were many lyrics I struggled with, whether for lack of clarity at the theatre (possibly due to diction or microphone issues), or (more importantly) due to the content once I researched the songs and understood some of the lyrics. While songs of their time, some of their messages regarding body image and a woman's role in her relationship don't resonate the same in 2021. While no fault of the cast and crew of this winning production, without any context or real story driven purpose, I found it somewhat jarring and something to note.

Ain't Misbehavin' is an evening of music and dance that rests on the shoulders of five of Omaha's talented artists, as well as a knockout creative team. Jim Othuse and Janet Morr deliver yet another beautiful backdrop for the Omaha Community Playhouse audience to enjoy, with a larger than life piano frame and bright and colorful lighting that enhance many of the energetic musical numbers. Lindsay Pape's costumes pop with bright colors and help to bring the characters to life visually. Jim Boggess and his orchestra are hoppin' and deliver exciting melodies that stay with the audience long after they leave. Ray Mercer's choreography is some of the best I've seen brought to the Omaha stages in recent memory, and it was a breath of fresh air to see artists interacting and physically engaging with one another on stage, especially in dance. And no cast or creative team would be complete without a strong and dedicated director at the helm, and Omaha Community Playhouse has found that in Kathy Tyree. Her direction is smart, engaging, and helps the artists to hit the comedic and dramatic beats with ease.

The cast is strong vocally and comedically, with each artist having at least one number that stands out from the rest. Jus. B is making his Omaha Community Playhouse debut and brings a rich and silky voice to the production. He is a joy to listen to, with highlights being "Honeysuckle Rose" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." I won't be surprised to see him return to the Omaha Community Playhouse stage before long. Leiloni Brewer shines in her solo "Squeeze Me," and the audience laughs are well-earned for her comedic talents she showcases throughout the production. Tiffany White-Welchen, while an undeniably charming comedic actress, delivers her own strong solo performance with her rendition of "Mean To Me," which was equally heartfelt and beautiful, and was a true crowd pleaser for the preview audience. Dara Hogan has a strong return to the Omaha stage and brings the house down with her stunning performance of "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now." Her chemistry with her frequent stage dance partner, DJ Tyree, is electric and a joy to watch, which is a testament not only to the talents of the choreographer, but to the talents of these performers. DJ Tyree is unstoppable in his performances of "How Ya Baby" and "The Viper's Drag," and I honestly had trouble taking my eyes off of him. His dancing is smooth and effortless, his character choices believable, and his vocals an equal match that make him a true triple threat. Every performer left their all on the stage and should be proud of the production they have created.

Ain't Misbehavin' is a toe-tappin good time and another success in a standout season for Omaha Community Playhouse. The production runs May 21 - June 20, 2021 and is sure to be a community favorite, so reserve your tickets soon. For tickets, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse box office, call 402-553-0800, or visit https://ticketomaha.com/Productions/ain't-misbehavin'.


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