Ain't Misbehavin' Musical Review - The Art of Bringin' the House Down

The cast of "Ain't Misbehavin'"

And now for something completely different.

It bears mentioning that there were far more than the usually hugs and polite salutations tonight, the mood was one of elation like I had never experienced before. So you can image that this audience was primed and ready for a great time during this production. It was like they knew something I didn’t; and they did.

Roz Ryna (l.) and Armelia McQueen (r.) in "Ain't Misbehavin'"

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a musical revival of the works of jazz pianist Fats Waller. There is no narrative string to follow, just song after song after song, and complete immersion into a time when every woe, every complaint and every joy was best expressed with a song.

The ensemble of Ain’t Misbehavin’ includes Eugene Barry-Hill, Doug Eskew, Armelia McQueen, Roz Ryan and Debra Walton. The five performers spend the evening mixing and matching into duos and trios, combining to create every possible collection of harmonies with their very distinct voices.

Collectively, in numbers such as “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around” and “Handful of Keys”, the quintet display feats of musically agility that are truly impressive. The performances had both style and substance while simultaneously being one hundred percent in character as each number brings a new characters and a new bit to be played out, just in case the lyrics go by too fast and you miss something.

The show features oldies but goodies such as “ Honeysuckle Rose”, “ ’T Ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do”, and of course the title theme. The second act is decidedly more mellow and bluesy, featuring a ballad for four of the five company members. Eugene Barry-Hill delivers a stunning interpretation of “ The Viper’s Drag / The Reefer Song” in a performance that is an unlikely yet intoxicating blend of Cab Calloway and Prince.  The crowning moment of the evening is a phenomenally haunting rendition of “ Black and Blue”, with vocal arrangements by William Elliott.

Eugene Barry-Hill (l.) and Doug Eskew (r.) in Ain't Misbehavin'"

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is wall to wall music and dancing. With comedy fused to the bones of the lyrics and choreography, every song is a small, but grand performance piece all its own, with colorful characters and lots of attitude. The show’s musical array take the audience inside swinging dance halls, down to Dixieland, stops briefly to a case of the delta blues and comes back again to rejoin the bump and grind of the neighborhood gin joint. For fans of the music and anyone who wants to have a great time, this production will have you tappin’ your feet, shoutin’ out and wanting more when it ends.

"Ain't Misbehavin'" at the Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles April 18th thru May 31, 2009.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is currently running at the Ahmanson Theater through May 31, 2009.

Photos by Craig Schwartz

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