GREENSBORO — The legendary Cotton Club has reappeared in Greensboro for just a few nights at N.C. A&T. Don’t miss the chance to revisit the legendary music of Fats Waller as done by the talented, youthful and energetic cast from A&T’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts as they present “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” at the Harrison Auditorium.
Waller’s music was part of the soundtrack of the Harlem Renaissance and the glamorous nightclub scene in New York City in the period between the two world wars. Of course, the Great Depression was also part of this era, but even economic woes couldn’t suppress the magic of the music and style of the era.
“Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” is a musical revue. It was originally presented with a cast of five, at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s cabaret in 1978 before moving to Broadway the same year. It was a smashing success, winning Tony Awards for Best Musical and for star Nell Carter. The original production ran for more than 1,600 performances and has been revived and toured almost nonstop ever since. There is a reason for this. The show is good. The music is great. When done right, it provides a lightning-fast night of great entertainment.
This show has to move. Director Donna Bradby keeps it moving well without missing the nuances of the songs. She knows when to stop and let the music speak. In fact, some of the quieter second-act numbers — such as “Black and Blue,” with Trejah Bostic, Desiree Coffey, Ishmael Muhammad, Kaetlin Sifford and Joshua Suitor; “Keeping Out of Mischief Now,” beautifully done by Jalynn Pasley; and Bostic’s lovely “Mean to Me” — are among the standout moments. Bradby uses the stage and space in Harrison Auditorium very well.
This production, with an expanded cast, succeeds in presenting a great evening of fun and entertainment with a delightful young cast. I hesitate to keep naming people for fear I’ll leave someone out. They are all good. And they execute Tina Yarborough Liggins’ stylish and sometimes athletic choreography beautifully.
The first act did seem a little unsettled at times. I assume it was due to the fact it was opening night. There were some challenges with the sound, and the show seemed a little overamplified at times. Hopefully these minor issues will settle as the show runs. Still, the big cast numbers were well done, especially “The Joint Is Jumpin’ ” and “The Jitterbug Waltz.” Muhammad led a nice version of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” and a solo standout was Coffey’s “Squeeze Me.”
Act 2 is basically one showstopper after another. It opened with “Spreadin’ the Rhythm Around,” which was like a musical fashion show highlighting Gregory Horton’s exquisite costumes. “The Viper’s Drag” was a great showcase for the talents and stage presence of Julius Smith. Evelin Kembe, Sifford and Anderlyn Smith seemed to enjoy delivering a stylish and amusing version of “Find Out What They Like.” Muhammad and Cameron Piggott had great fun with “Fat and Greasy.”
Just go see the show. It’s all good. You won’t regret it!