Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Joint Was Jumpin'

I had heard from some friends that "Ain't Misbehavin'" at Theater VCU was worth seeing and since I'd never seen it before (despite it having been around since 1978), we braved the remnants of Ida to check it out. This wasn't challenging or thoughtful theater, this was a very cool set, colorful costumes and the classic music of Fats Waller. In a word, it was fun.

The revue was high energy (you could see it in the heated faces of the dancers), all singing and dancing, at times humorous, at times downright raunchy. The five actors that made up the cast were well suited to playing the talented black musicians and singers that figured so prominently in the Harlem Renaissance of the 20s and 30s. But the production is no history lesson, except perhaps a thoroughly enjoyable one in the history of swing. I recognized more songs than I expected to: "Honeysuckle Rose," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "T'aint Nobody's Business," to name a few. I'm more Fats Waller-literate than I realized.

We loved that there were nightclub tables on the edges of the stage where audience members sat during the show and, from which they were sometimes pulled into the action. And then there was the titillation of the fake marijuana smoking (we didn't inhale). We observed all the fun from a slightly higher perch, but you can't go wrong seeing it from any vantage point.

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