Director/Choreographer Gerry McIntyre has done Thomas “Fats” Waller right with his production of “Ain’t Misbehavin” at Great Lakes Theater. This trip back in time in the Hanna Theatre is a smooth and sensual ride into all of the emotions of jazz.
Featuring a talented quintet of performers consisting of Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Colleen Longshaw, Brittney Mack, Jessie Cope Miller, and David Robbins, the show is non-stop harmony and frenetic joy.
Lead by Music Director William Knowles (Fats Waller embodied), the band and company are a perfect blend of fashion, energy, personality and fun.
The show was originally conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz and consists of lyric-based numbers of the big band jazz era. Opening with the show’s namesake, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the stellar cast and band cover the likes of “The Joint is Jumpin’,” “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Two Sleepy People.”
The show’s choreography keeps the actors busily performing through every moment, giving the already-entertaining pieces a spirited and classy edge. The stage is truly filled with personality as Wiltez Jones, Longshaw, Mack, Cope Miller, and Robbins have “it” in spades. Bright and effervescent, each star shines both in the ensemble and on their own.
Random highlights from the performance include the spirited moves that light up the stage in “This Joint is Jumpin’,” and the surprise giant snake of nylons that appears like a large tube monster in “When the Nylons Bloom Again.” “Your Feet’s Too Big” includes an unsuspecting audience member getting pulled up on to the stage for a call-out of their feet, and “Fat and Greasy” is a few minutes of pure … lyrical oddity?
The sultry award goes to “The Viper’s Song,” featuring Wiltez Jones in his tantalizing performance that is all smooth and provocative. Mack gets the firecracker award for her power and spunk in… well, everything.
And finally kudos to the band for their constant energetic jive and jubilation. The band – William Knowles on the piano (Music Director), Ray DeForest on the bass, Juan Ingram on the trumpet, Eric Richmond on the trombone, Emillo Rosario on the reeds, and Elijah Gilmore on the drums.
The beautiful icing on this delicious cake of sumptuous sound and vibrant visuals is the costuming, which is nothing short of dapper and dazzling. The men are sharp in their handsome suits, the ladies are flashy and fantastic in an array of dresses and hats, with (as a random detail) the women’s’ shoes being enviably chic. It’s a feast for both ears and eyes.
If you’re looking for an exciting evening with great music and dynamo performers, Great Lakes Theater’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is the musical sunshine you need during this gray May in Cleveland.
$15-$80 tickets are available at https://www.greatlakestheater.org/shows-events/shows/2022-23/aint-misbehavin.
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz
Created and Originally Directed by Richard Maltby Jr.
Original Choreography and Musical Staging by Arthur Faria
Musical Adaptations, Orchestrations & Arrangements by Luther Henderson
Vocal & Musical Concepts by Jeffrey Gutcheon
Musical Arrangements by Jeffrey Gutcheon & William Elliott
Directed by Gerry McIntyre
Trad A Burns, Lighting Designer
Nicki Cathro, Assistant Stage Manager
Dustin Cross, Costume Designer
Charles Fee, Producing Artistic Director
David Gotwald, Sound Designer
Murray Horwitz, Author/Creator
Sarah Kelso, Production Stage Manager
Iran Micheal Leon, Hair and Wig Designer
Gerry MacIntyre, Director/Choreographer
Richard Maltby Jr. , Author/Creator
Stanley Meyer, Scenic Designer
Fats Waller, Composer
Lindy Warren, Assistant Stage Manager