The Joint is Jumpin’ at Barrington Stage
Barrington Stage has blown the doors down on their Boyd-Quinson main stage season
opener with Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Musical Show. Fats Waller was one of
America’s most influential and talented pianists and composer of the classic jazz age.
Waller’s music captures Harlem of the 1920’s not just in the rhythms and beats of the
time, but also with the feelings and emotions of Black Americans in New York in the
Jazz Age. The music allows the audience the opportunity to look inside the lives and
feelings of the people who inhabited a world a hundred years ago.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is an amalgamation of music that is fun, exciting, raunchy, and
raucous. The hits simply keep spilling out over the footlights; Honeysuckle Rose, The
Joint is Jumpin’, Your Feet’s Too Big, Black and Blue, It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie to name but
a few. Originally created by Richard Maltby, Jr., he has put his stamp of approval on
this re-imagined production under the flawless direction of Jeffrey L. Page. Page has choreographed and directed the new production with a sense of ease and excitement that is infectious. The cast of five: Allison Blackwell, Arnold Harper II, Jarvis Manning, Jr.,
Anastacia McClesky and Maiesha McQueen could not be more perfectly cast. They
move with a joy that comes not only from great direction, but also from a group that
that has become a unit and so obviously enjoy playing with and off of one another on the stage. Their strong voices, blend together in joyous harmonies and their solo pieces allow each the opportunity to shine. They share the stage in true ensemble fashion, each performer working together for the betterment of the whole.
The show is set in two acts, act one is the legendary Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The
music is loud, upbeat, and fact paced. We see the characters let loose and be their “true selves”. The second act moves us to downtown Manhattan, to the famed Waldorf. The persona changes, the feeling and tempos slow down and become a bit more laconic as the band attempts to fit in with New York’s Hoity-Toity (as the program tells us.) Here the performers present more of what, we assume, their interpretation is of fitting into a white man’s world.
Rounding out this exceptional cast is a phenomenal band led by Musical Director
Kwinton Gray on the keyboard. He plays with such feeling gusto and passion that he is
most certainly channeling Waller through the tips of his fingers. The six members of
the band are on stage for the show and become an integral part of the production.
Raul Abrego’s black and gold set design is beyond stunning. From the moment you sit in
the theater, the proscenium design reaches out and grabs you. The rest of the production
team: Costumer Designer Oana Botez, Lighting Designer Tom Ontiveros, wigs by The Wig Associates and sound designed by Leon Rothenberg have come together to present a flawless production.
Whether you are going to the theater to find message and meaning in a show or just to be joyously entertained, Ain’t Misbehavin’ will give you what you’re looking for. Once the music begins until the final bows two hours later, you will barely be able to contain yourself to sit in the chair and not tap your toes and clap your hands. Barrington Stage has kicked off their main stage season in grand style. It is a production not to missed and one that will have you leave the theater totally satisfied and only thinking, perhaps we can see it again. It is a feel good show full of fun, humor emotion and sexiness.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Barrington Stage through July 9, at various times. Tickets range
from $20 – $85. For more information: 413-236-8888, barringtonstageco.org
COVID protocols are being followed. Patrons need to show proof of vaccination and
must be masked at all times in the theater.