The Mercury Theatre transformed into a 1930’s speakeasy with the gloss covered floor of the stage protruding into the auditorium and sparkles everywhere. The displaced seats were neatly arranged on-stage to the left and right, with bemused members of the public taking their seats in the limelight. The stage was set.
This man, Fats, made his name as a jazz pianist. That he was classically trained on both the piano and organ may have escaped many. The title song of this show is now ninety years old, a testament to the skills of Fats as a composer of popular tunes.
If you were expecting to sit back and be told a story, this is not one of those musicals. Director Tyrone Huntley explains: “Ain’t Misbehavin’ doesn’t prescribe to a traditional musical format – there is no linear storyline, there are no consistent characters and there is little scripted dialogue. Our production embraces these freedoms by allowing the music to be the star of its own show.”
And star the music did. Over thirty numbers – fun songs, love songs, happy songs, sad songs and of course, it wouldn’t be Fats Waller without silly songs.
The cast of Adrian Hansel, Caryl Mercedes Dyer, Landi Oshinowo, Renee Lamb and Wayne Robinson maintained a ridiculously high level of infectious energy on stage as they danced, jumped, sang, laughed and moved props. Each took centre stage showcasing their individual skills and each shone.
Everyone will have their own favourite Fats song be it Honeysuckle Rose, Jitterbug Waltz, Viper’s Drag or Two Sleepy People. They are all there woven together in a perfect tapestry of musical nostalgia.
The five-piece band were almost there as a backdrop but without them holding it all together there would have been no show at all.
This is a feel-good show all about the music of one man. Excellent performances make it a pleasure to watch and listen too. It may not be a traditional musical but none-the-less it is a fine piece of entertainment that left the joint jumpin’. The standing ovation was as much a desire by the audience to show its pleasure, as it was a hope that we could join in the jive!