Colchester Mercury audiences Ain't Misbehavin' as they dance to Fats Waller musical
PUBLISHED: 12:53 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:53 21 March 2019
Review: Ain't Misbehavin': The Fats Waller Musical, by Richard Maltby Jnr, Colchester Mercury, until Saturday March 30
Welcome to Harlem, New York, circa 1940. We find ourselves in a glitzy nightclub, small tables populated by sharp-dressed couples can be picked out in the semi-darkness. Perched on steps in front of a gold curtain that has seen better days and surrounded by a tunnel of light bulbs there is a small band blasting out some righteous music. The author of much of that music is pounding out the melody on a battered upright piano – that man is Fats Waller.
Suddenly, a spotlight illuminates a singer, and we find ourselves transported into the lives and the relationships of the people filling the club. This is the set-up for Ain’t Misbehavin’, a new show which dares to show off the skill and talent of both cast and production team by entertaining a packed theatre (and getting them up on their feet) with nothing more than a bare stage, a few props and a light tunnel.
It’s a towering achievement and the performers are uniformly superb – as is the four-piece band, complete with self-propelled piano. During a non-stop two hour show the cast rattle through 30 songs which take audiences from seedy underground nightclubs, to the swanky Waldorf Hotel to song publishers on Tin Pan Alley, anywhere where blues and jazz music, in all its different forms was played.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ doesn’t have a narrative as such, instead it captures the atmosphere of the age and delivers a series of self-contained vignettes, a collection of on-stage music videos, which illustrate the songs and reveal a glimpse into the lives of the people who made this celebratory music.
The show has been put together with great style by director Tyrone Huntley and choreographer Oti Mabuse. They keep the show moving at a breathless pace, as one scene bleeds into another, and have injected a lovely sense of humour into many of the scenes. The cast of singers and dancers – Carly Mercedes Dyer, Wayne Robinson, Renée Lamb, Adrian Hansel and Landi Oshinowo – are superb.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ does for Fats Waller what Five Guys Named Moe did the for the music of Louis Jordan. It’s a great night which will leave you going home on a high.