The Depot Theatre in Westport has opened their season with a bang. Ain't Misbehavin', the musical tribute to Fats Waller, is lively and tuneful. It features five terrific singer/dancers and a swinging on-stage band. All the familiar Fats Waller songs are there such as the title song, "I've Got the Feeling I'm Falling", and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", as well as many others less familiar. Truly, "The Joint Is Jumpin".
The physical production is great with colorful and workable set designed by Lisa Cody-Rapport. Jean Brookman's costumes are nicely sparkly and swishy, with some clever additions in Act II. Julie Duro's lighting is effective throughout, and especially so for "Black and Blue". Asside from some Act I sound glitches, the technical production is slick and smooth.
All the musical numbers are terrific, but I'd like to mention a few of my favorites such as Emily Mitchell's delicate "Squeeze Me" and Tyson Jennette's hilarious "Your Feet's Too Big". Stacey Houghton's "Keepin' Out Of Mischief" contains the highest fan-kick in the lower 48. Sincee Daniels raises the temperature at least 10 degrees with "The Viper's Drag" and Simotra Simone Houston didn't let a passing freight train distract her from a great version of "Mean To Me".
There are a couple of riotous duets back-to-back: "Find Out What They Like" and "Fat and Greasy". The beautifully sung "Black and Blue is powerful musically, lyrically and emotionally.
The four-piece band with Brian Levels on trumpet, clarinet and sax, Kris Rogers on bass and Jared Young on drums, ably led by Musical Director Laurence Dutt at the piano, provides the lively accompaniment. It's great fun to hear them cut loose on the Entre'Acte. Being a pianist myself, I have great admiration for Mr. Dutt's stride playing. He's also done a fine job with the singers, especially on "Honeysuckle Band".
This is Illeana Kirven's directorial deubt, and it certainly bodes well for her future. It's obvious that she's an experienced choreographer, as the movement is always interesting and fun to watch.
If you haven't yet visited the Depot Theatre, Ain't Misbehavin' might be a good production to gtry. I agree with a remark I overheard on the way out: "What a great way to start the season!" I defy anyone not to come out the theatre similing.
On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of Ain't Misbehavin' gets four and three-fourths boxcars. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng. June 27, 2006