The whole joint’s a jumpin’ at Poteet Theatre in Oklahoma City through March 20, 2011. Nobody’s not being good exactly – they just “Ain’t Misbehavin’”! While not every one in the world is necessarily a jazz fan, every soul has just got to love Fats Waller. Thomas (Fats) Waller was born in 1904 and was already the organist at his father’s church by age 10. By 18 he was a recording artist making the ‘big time’. He died of pneumonia in 1943 (far too young) while touring across country. But in those years between he made a lot of great music, and those who loved his music loved his laughing life. He is known as a great symbol of Harlem and an inspiration to the civil rights movement. In 1978 the show “Ain’t Misbehavin’” co-written by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr. became a Broadway sensation as well as a tribute to his music. Co-Author Murray Horwitz states in a letter to The Poteet Theatre printed in the program: “I wish I could be there it see it myself because I have always enjoyed my visits to Oklahoma City…” Wishing the same as, sir, you’ll be proud of this group.
Eleven band members including Band Director Dr. Fred Hammond, III keep the audience clapping, toe tapping and knee slapping. Director and Set Designer Jay Prock places the band back and center so the acoustics are pleasant. For those with sensitive ears cotton balls are available going to the Cotton Club where the action takes place. Don’t take them! Blunting or blurring a single note would be a crime.
Assistant Director Pamela Rise and Choreographer Sherri Smith bring a great deal of creativity to the production of the show. But the soul of the show is revealed by the cast. Without any trappings at all the voices of DeʹVin Lewis and Christopher Jones would sail clearly throughout the auditorium. Charlie Ludden is equally terrific in his highlight performances. Tracey Jordan Esaw has a beautiful voice–“That Ain’t Right” is right on. Andrea Coleman has enthusiasm and excitement. She easily overcomes the slight mike problems that surely have already been corrected. Tyler Andrew Bowler is far too young (high school) to be this smooth sounding. Regina Joy Banks interpretations are soulful and heartwarming and the notes of Helen Richards lend body to the performances as a whole. Kierro Markese Thompson shows a talent especially entertaining in his rendition of “The Viper’s Drag.” Three dancing waitresses round out the troupe. Bailey Anne Smith, Alisha Ragon and Lexy Neira are three young ladies with soleful soul.
This production is a fun show and while the voices of the cast, especially Lewis and Jones, are wonderful–the best part comes from the audience and Fats Waller himself. By the fourth number “Honeysuckle Rose” everyone in every seat, on stage or off stage can sing and dance with colorful harmony and mischievous pleasure. Even me! Okay, apologies to my companion riding shotgun on the way home!
The Poteet Theatre presents “Ain’t Misbehavin’” can be seen through March 20, 2011 in the basement of St. Luke’s church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City. Curtain goes up at 8:00pm Thursday through Saturday with a Matinee performance each Sunday at 3:00pm. For ticket information or reservations call 405.609.1023 or visit www.poteettheatre.com. For the review published in the Oklahoma visit newsok.com.