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Ain’t no doubtin’ you’ll have a good time at Performance Network this holiday season – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Review) November 19, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.

Performance Network has brought Ann Arbor an early Christmas present with their current production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, the Fats Waller musical show.

Winner of the 1978 Tony Award for Best Musical, (it surprisingly beat out On the Twentieth Century, not surprisingly The Act, Dancin’ and Runaways), the show revived musical reviews, and while it has no direct storyline, it follows a group of singers/performers in an after hours club as they sing, complain, flirt, booze it up, and generally have a fun time. The idea is, the audience should have a fun time as well. And they do.

Dan Walker’s excellent set invokes a basement-level nightclub, with band center stage, and some audience seated at cabaret tables on the sides (Note: I would recommend you NOT select the side seats for this production – virtually all action takes place facing front and center).

Darrian Ford, Jennifer Cole, Kron Moore, james Bown, and K. Edmonds comprise the 5-member cast, while Ryan MacKenzie Lewis and his four-piece ensemble can arguably be considered the sixth member (Ryan – piano; Brad Faryniarz – saxaphones; Chris Morelli – bass; Billy Harrington – drums). The entire ensemble swings; there is more energy on stage here than might be needed to light the Christmas lights on Main Street for the holidays.

Yeah, okay, so I can note some minor quibbles about the slightly pitchy vocals on opening night (especially in Act One); but all was well by Act Two (which is better written to begin with). It doesn’t really matter in a show which is well sung, well directed (by Tim Edward Rhoze), and well-choreographed (Robin Wilson).  The hand-built costumes by Suzanne Young are exquisite. Charles Sutherland’s properties help evoke the era; and Mary Cole lights it all prettily, with red, green, and blue gels coming to life in the bigger numbers.

Each of the performers has plenty of opportunity to shine in solos, duets, and ensemble numbers; but its Darrian Ford that explodes across the stage, in particular making “The Viper’s Drag” a standout, as well as his dancing throughout. To be honest, it’s hard to recreate roles so tied to the likes of the larger-than-life Ken Page, Nell Carter, and Andre DeShields…but this cast holds its own in what is ultimately a highly entertaining holiday treat. Fats Wallers music is tuneful, sharp-witted, and often funny.

To be sure, I would rather have seen a book musical in this holiday slot — but Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a sure-footed entertaining evening. It’s the perfect compliment to dinner and drinks before the show in downtown Ann Arbor, so you can make a night (or afternoon) of it. Ask about the Prix Fixe dinner option at The Raven’s Club when making your reservations. Ain’t no doubtin’ you will have a good time.


1. Carla Milarch - November 20, 2011

Hey Ron! Thanks for the review. Since you mention dinner beforehand, I wanted to let your reader’s know to ask about the Prix Fixe dinner option at The Raven’s Club when making their reservations. Happy Holidays! -Carla

2. ronannarbor - November 20, 2011

Hey Carla! I’ve even updated and added that at the bottom of the review!

3. Davi Napoleon - November 21, 2011

The side seats, on the stage, are absolutely wonderful. You’re in the club, and the action is happening to and around you. The actors interact with patrons in the house, too, but we got the best of it.

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