L TO R - Cynthia Thomas, YVONNE, Anise Ritchie, Ron Christopher Jones; Back row - Tony Perry-
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Ain’t Misbehavin’, a sassy and toe-tapping tribute to the music of legendary piano-playing jazz musician, composer, and all-round musical entertainer Thomas “Fats” Waller, is knocking the socks off audiences at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

The high energy show directed by award-winning actor/singer/producer/director Yvette Freeman who is familiar to audiences for her roles in the popular and long-running NBC drama “ER” and ‘Orange is the New Black’, deftly stitches together twenty Waller songs taking us on a nostalgic trip back to those radio days of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s and the heyday of nightclubs like the Cotton Club, in Harlem.

Cynthia Thomas (seated) YVONNE & Ron Christopher Jones
Cynthia Thomas (seated) YVONNE & Ron Christopher Jones

Waller was a real force in the jazz genre of the 1930’s and 40’s. His canon ran the gamut from his comedy songs like ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’ and ‘This Joint is Jumpin’ to winsome songs like “Ain’t Misbehavin’, ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, and ‘Keeping out of Mischief’, being just a few among many.

Director Freeman has gathered her creative cast of singer/dancers from San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York. There is very little that escapes her keen directing eye. Freeman herself was a cast member of the First National Company, of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway and around the world. Joining Freeman is choreographer Julia Lema – who was an assistant to the original Broadway chorographer Arthur Faria – and now has successfully met the challenge of remounting the dance numbers for the intimate stage of North Coast Repertory Theatre.

AM_Cast - Cynthia Thomas, Tony Perry, YVONNE, Ron Christopher Jones and Anise Ritchie
AM_Cast – Cynthia Thomas, Tony Perry, YVONNE, Ron Christopher Jones and Anise Ritchie

The talented and pizzaz-laden five member cast includes: Yonne as Charlaine, Cynthia Thomas as Ammelia, Ron Christopher Jones as Andre, Anise Ritchie as Nell, and Tony Perry as Ken.   With twenty songs in the show each actor/singer gets to shine. Stand out numbers include: ’Ain’t Misbehavin’ wonderfully performed by the company, Ron Jones then leads the company in the sly and entertaining number ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do’ Cynthia Thomas delivers ‘Squeeze Me’ to the delight of the audience, while Anise Ritchie’s smoldering ‘I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling’ and her ‘Mean to Me’ numbers are memorable, while a pert Yvonne really swings nautical in her ‘Yacht Club Swing’ number.

Ron Jones and Tony Perry team up to explain about “The Ladies Who Sing with the Band’ and Tony brings down the house with his hilarious rendition of ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’. The Company scores big time with two splashy numbers: ‘The Joint Is Jumpin’ and ‘Spreadin’ Rhythm Around’.

Anise Ritchie & Tony Perry
Anise Ritchie & Tony Perry

The ladies look lovely in their costumes designed by Anastasia Paulova, and the gentlemen really get into their characters with some colorful, snappy and cool-looking Paulova-selected threads. And, of course the music is terrific with a beat that makes it hard to keep one toes from tapping, thanks to the five-piece band that features piano man and conductor Kevin Toney, along with Drummer Danny King, Bass player Greg McKinney, Trumpeter Julian Davis and Tenor Sax and Clarinet by Malcom Jones. Lanny Hartley serves as the Musical Direction for the production.

The sets and lighting by Resident designers Marty Burnett (Set) and Matt Novotny (Lights) are always first rate and lend a visual appeal to all of the musical numbers.

‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ at North Coast Rep Theatre is a delightful evening of song and dance from one of America’s iconic composers and performers. Don’t miss this musical tribute to the great Fats Waller. The show runs through August 7, 2016.