Theater Review: 'Ain't Misbehavin' Is A Winner All The Way

Jun 7, 2018

The summer theater season is underway at Matunuck where the Theatre by the Sea is presenting “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Rhode Island Public Radio’s Bill Gale says it’s a winner all the way.

If ever there was a Broadway show that deserves the title of “musical” its probably got to be 'Ain’t Misbehavin’' that classic piece of singing and singing and . . . well, singing.

Set among the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s it is mostly a huge, fiery cannonball looking at songs written by the great Fats Waller , 'Misbehavin'' is one gorgeous – and sometimes serious – chance for the five singer-cast to provide a grand ole time.

And that’s exactly what this super production at Theatre by the Sea is giving. Led by director and choreographer Gerry McIntyre, aided greatly by music director Christopher Davis, and a fine band, the show is nothing but a first rate entertainment, with something to say, too.

With songs such as “The Joint is Jumpin,” "Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Lookin Good But Feelin’ Bad” the cast of three women and two men cover the two hour production with joy, laughter, sarcasm and just plain fun.

Jeffrey Eugene Johnson, Tarra Conner Jones, NaTonia Monet, Helen Marla White and the one-named DeMone are a whirlwind of talent and delight. On a small but always glistening set the five are in and out, in and out and then in again ready for their next moment, their next time to shine.

This “Ain’t Misbehavin” also fits in more dancing than others I’ve seen. That becomes an opportunity to show a delightful sense of movement. And the cast is fully up to the challenge being both powerful and graceful.

Amid all the joy and humor “Ain’t Misbehavin’” manages to add some important and touching moments concerning the life and times of African-Americans.

The most telling issue is carried in a song perhaps not as well known as some of others by Fats Waller. “Black and Blue” provides a soft but searing notification of what life can be like for African-Americans.

The five-member cast gives it a soft regime. The song is done in dark shades of colors which becomes greatly brighter in their message. It was a quiet moment that had much to say.

But, then, the rest of this American joy is all upbeat, powered with humor, pride and talent. The joint is jumpin’ at Theatre by the Sea.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’ “ continues at Theatre by the Sea in Matunuck through June 17. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.