When I saw Tyrone Huntley in Leave to Remain at the Lyric Hammersmith earlier this year, I knew a star was in the ascendant, although the Evening Standard already knew that when they awarded him the ES Theatre Award. He’s now sprinted from stage into the director’s seat in a razzle-dazzle production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Southwark Playhouse, a swinging affair which will have you jitterbugging home.
Often referred to as the Fats Waller Show, this is 90 minutes of signature Waller tunes. Don’t expect a drop of anything serious in this joint – it’s all toe-tappin’ tunes, dazzling costumes and a ritzy, gold-crusted set- more cabaret than musical.
It’s the first time in 25 years that the revival has set its tuned foot in London. It premiered in New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club back in 1978 and went on to win a Tony Award for Best Musical. It’s an evening of crowd-pleasing songs, featuring the funny “Your Feet’s Too Bigs”, the soulful “Black and Blue” and the sweet, sweet “Honeysuckle Rose.” Waller’s lyrics in “Find Out What They Like” may feel outdated in a Metoo universe, but who cares? It’s fabulous.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is choreographed by Oti Mabuse (Strictly Come Dancing), and the cast put in some athletic, spirited performances. All eyes are on the sassy and seductive Renée Lamb who sings off with vocal powerhouse Landi Oshinowo for the affections of her male co-stars, smooth operator Adrian Hansel and spliff-smoking Wayne Robinson. Carly Mercedes Dyer provides high-pitched comedic value (one of her notes leaves a shattered glass in its wake). The evening’s award goes to pianist Mark Dickman, who channelled Waller straight from Harlem into Southwark whilst tickling the the ivories on an upright.
It’s a hopping evening all right, and the joint is jumpin’ as we leave. Ain’t Misbehavin’ is on at the Southwark Playhouse until 1 June. You can buy tickets here.
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