San Diego Theater Preview: AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach)

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by Tony Frankel on July 13, 2016

in Theater-Regional


“One never knows, do one?” That’s the favorite catchphrase of Fats Waller (1904-1943), an irrepressible master of music. The 285-pound, cherubic-cheeked jokester genius is the powerhouse presence and driving dreamer behind Ain’t Misbehavin’, the still irresistible 1978 tribute revue from Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr. In this happy case, well, one do knows.

Tony Perry Cynthia Thomas, Anise Ritchie, Tony Perry & YVONNE

Opening tonight and playing through August 7, 2016, North Coast Rep begins its run of this rollicking, euphoric jukebox revue that pays hopping homage to Waller’s stride-piano jazz treasures, such as the teasingly righteous title number and standards that became signature triumphs from the first note (the lyrics to Waller’s tunes are by Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf). After the run at North Coast Rep, the fun continues at California Center for the Arts in Escondido for another 6 performances.

YVONNE AM_L TO R - Cynthia Thomas, YVONNE, Anise Ritchie, Ron Christopher Jones

To work, the show needs perfect cast members who can be solo dynamos and a harmony-happy ensemble, so director Yvette Freeman, who replaced Nell Carter in the original Broadway production, chose some amazing players to deliver this hard-hoofing, high-strutting, big-belting two-act delight: Cynthia Thomas, Ron Christopher Jones, Anise Ritchie, Tony Perry, and Yvonne, who goes by just Yvonne. The opening title number ushers in these homegrown, go-for-broke, sizzling entertainers, their songs giving them away as well as creating their own dialogue on class, love, sex, Harlem, downtown, and surviving World War II.

Cynthia Thomas AM_ Cynthia Thomas, Tony Perry & Anise Ritchie

So, get ready for “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Squeeze Me,” “Yacht Club Swing,” “The Joint is Jumpin’,” “How Ya Baby,” “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around,” “Cash For Your Trash,” the reefer netherworld of “The Viper’s Drag,” the popular novelty number “Your Feet’s Too Big,” and the heartbreakingly simple “Mean to Me.” And so many more. The delirious evening will end with a medley of Waller’s best covers which are as fresh as the day they were recorded in a lucky studio. You couldn’t find yourself at a happier creation. But then—one never knows, do one?

AM_Cynthia Thomas (seated) YVONNE & Ron Christopher Jones AM_ YVONNE, Tony Perry, Cynthia Thomas, Ron Christopher Jones & Anise Ritchie

photos by Aaron Rumley

AM_ Ron Christopher Jones & Tony Perry

Anise Ritchie & Tony Perry

Ain’t Misbehavin’
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach
Wed. @ 7pm, Thurs-Sat @ 8PM;
Sat & Sun @ 2PM, Sun @7pm
July 13 – August 7, 2016
for tickets, call (858) 481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

then plays CA Center for the Arts in Escondido
August 11-14, 2016
for tickets, call 800.988.4253 or visit Art Center

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