High Energy AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ at Tri-PAC

by Walter Bender

Alexa Morefield, Denia Gibson and Mia Mbuy in AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' at Tri-County Performing Arts Center through February 19.

The latest of the Collage Series at Tri-PAC in Pottstown is the Tony-Award winning musical revue, AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’. Loosely based on the music of Thomas “Fats” Waller, this delightful production is a high-energy evening of song, dance and surprising interaction.

Tri-PAC’s production takes place in the Newberry Loft at the facility, the upstairs theatre that evokes the flavor of some of the Harlem nightclubs of the 1920’s and 30’s. A brick wall is the backdrop, with the title of the show the only decoration on the main wall. The set is stark, with the band set up behind a couple of tables and chairs. The show opens with the title number, a high-energy romp that introduces us not only to the cast, but the skills of pianist/band director Benn Bullock, who is the personification of Fats Waller. He is joined by Lewis Ben, Louis Rieger, Aaron Gould and Barb Newberry in the band, who energetically perform the music of the era.

The cast of this production is very talented. Denia Shanelle Gibson, Mia Mbuy, Alexa Morefield, Marc Sherfield, and Isaih Robinson perform all of the music (31 songs in total!) with a joy and enthusiasm that captures the audience. The songs are mostly upbeat and energetic, and the cast does a great job capturing the spirit of the songs and the era. The interplay with the audience also is delightful, at times cast members referencing audience members, and at one point even sitting on the lap of an audience member. They encourage rhythmic clapping only a couple times (always an annoyance when it gets to be too much) and the audience needs little encouragement to participate.

Director Zuhairah McGill does a fantastic job in directing this production. She deftly avoids the “and then I wrote…” feel of many musical revues by giving the cast a comedic interplay, each of the characters at times fighting for the spotlight. The production feels like it is telling a story instead of being a disjointed collection of songs. She keeps the action going, moving her actors off and on in spirit with each of the songs, allowing them time to catch their breath (very necessary with this show!) without breaking the momentum of the production.

Alexa Morefield in a scene from Tri-County Performing Arts Center's AIN'T MISBEHAVIN', running in Pottstown, PA through February 19.

Opening night jitters got the show off to a bit of a rough start…I felt it really didn’t connect until about half way through the second number…but once the cast got their rhythm, the show took off and delighted the audience. There were a couple technical issues (wireless mics are always a danger) but that did not diminish the audience’s enjoyment. The cast received a standing “O” from much of the audience at the end of the evening.

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ is a wonderful, high-energy way to spend a couple hours at the theatre. Unfortunately, tickets are going fast for this limited-run production, As of opening night, there were tickets available only for this coming Friday’s production, but I would recommend checking with the theatre to see if there are cancellations. Make the trek up Route 422 to see this delightful show.

The Fats Waller Musical
Conceived by Richard Maltby Jr & Murray Horwitz
Directed by Zuhairah McGill
Musical Direction by Ben Bullock
February 10-19, 2012
Tri-County Performing Arts Center
245 E. High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464

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