Oh, Yeah! Stages Opens 2012 Season With A Rockin’ Rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin'”

The cast of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at Stages-St. Louis.

Not only was the joint jumpin’ on opening night, it was swaying, swinging and tapping toes as Stages-St. Louis starts off with a loud, raucous and totally satisfying production of the Fats Waller musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’. Director Michael Hamilton, staying true as an homage to the original cast, has the cast listed as “characters” of the original Tony winning cast of 1978. But, by any name you want, this musical revue comes out smelling like a “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Willena Vaughn resembles Nell Carter in stature and in song. She can mellow out such great numbers as “Mean To Me” and bring down the rafters with upbeat songs like the smashing duet she does with Raena White, “Find Out What They Like.” This naughty number was one of the highlights in a show filled with them. As Armelia, Raena White is a powerhouse soloing on “Squeeze Me” and teaming with cast members as well. Rounding out the ladies of the ensemble is Wendy Lynette Fox as “Charlaine.” She gets to shine in the solo, “Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now” and dazzling us while teaming up with the guys and other gals throughout the short, two acts.

Eric LaJuan Summers oozes his way through “The Viper’s Drag” at Stages-St. Louis production of the Fats Waller musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

The men get to shine too including “Andre,” played with style and grace by Eric LaJuan Summers. His “Viper’s Drag” is not only impressive vocally and physically, but he really gets to have fun- in particular with one of the ladies in the front row. Dwelvan David as “Ken” has another show-stopper in the hilarious “Your Feet’s Too Big” and is a stand out in the ensemble work as well. After all is said and done, this is really an ensemble show and these five move like a well-oiled machine as they belt, slink and slide across the stage like they’ve been doing this show together for years.

Probably the most significant thing about this production is that Stages finally has room for a live band- they usually use “canned” music. The onstage sextet is simply outstanding led by Adaron “Pops” Jackson pounding the keys right in the middle of the singer/dancers on his old upright. They get a chance to shine on their own as they jam during the opening of the second act. This is such a welcome sound for a Stages show that you wish they had room somewhere in the small Kirkwood theatre for a live band every show. They do such magnificent work, it’s a shame that the actors can’t perform with live music on a regular basis.

Kudos to the rest of the off stage personnel as well. Peggy Taphorn blends her delightful choreography beautifully with Michael Hamilton’s solid direction. James Wolk has given us a tremendous, colorful set built around a series of arches including endlessly creative combinations with an arch of piano keys, highlighted by the powerful lights of Matthew McCarthy. Lou Bird’s costumes are reminiscent of the original production as well with snazzy ’30’s and ’40’s looks.

Willena Vaughn and Dwelvan David are smooth as honey during the “Honeysuckle Rose” segment of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at Stages-St. Louis.

Once again, Stages-St. Louis has given us the “must see” production to kick off the summer theatre season. “Ain’t Misbehavin'” will keep you moving in your seat and may even get you to jump out of that seat from time to time. From Fats Waller’s music to music of other that he performed and made hits, this is the still the best musical revue ever put together. Minimal dialogue, the story of his music is told through that medium and it succeeds over and over again all night long.

See “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at Stages through July 1st. Give them a call at 314-821-2407 or at stagesstlouis.org for tickets or more information.

 

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