(COVER PHOTO: Jackson Jirard and Christina Jones in “Ain’t Misbehavin’” now playing at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Ma. through June 26, 2022. Photo by Nile Scott Studios)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
"Dream awhile, scheme awhile, we're sure to find happiness, and I guess, all those things you've always pined for. "
- Fats Waller
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. & Murray Horowitz
Created & Originally Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Original Choreography & Musical Staging by Arthur Faria
Musical Adaptations, Orchestrations, & Arrangements by Luther Henderson
Vocal & Musical Concepts by Jeffrey Gutcheon
Musical Arrangements by Jeffrey Gutcheon & William Elliot
GBSC production Directed and Choreographed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Co-Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins^
Co-Music Directed by David Freeman Coleman and Dan Rodriguez
Cast Includes: Becky Bass, Lovely Hoffman*, Jackson Jirard*, Christina Jones, Anthony Pires, Jr.*
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
^Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the union of professional stage directors and choreographers.
+Member of United Scenic Artists/Local USA 829 of the International Alliance of Stage Employees.
June 9 through June 26, 2022
(Contact Venue for Exact Dates and Times)
Reserve your tickets today!
Tickets range from $20 - $67;
Click the link below to reserve yours!
Call 781-279-2200 to speak with the Box Office.
In the spirit of the Celtics advancing in the playoffs (that’s a basketball reference for some of you musical theatre buffs, by the way), “Ain’t Misbehavin’” should be considered, in basketball terms, a solid “slam dunk.”
The Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, in association with Front Porch Arts Collective and Central Square Theater takes us back in time to 1920s Harlem, to an era of musical celebration specific to American culture and creativity at a time in our history when there was seemingly little to celebrate.
But the celebration of what is considered the "Golden Age of African-American Culture" does come and, when it does, the party comes on strong, comes on hard and, thankfully, never lets up.
Brilliantly executed by a six-member cast, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” gives us songs, dances, laughs, joy, teachable moments and more - all part and parcel of the incomparable music written by the late, great musical genius Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller.
The revue debuted in 1978 and is not done enough. So, a huge thank you is extended to everyone involved for making this marvelous collaboration of talent available for audiences to enjoy.
The cast is small but large on talent with Becky Bass, Lovely Hoffman, Jackson Jirard, Christina Jones and Anthony Pires, Jr. who all perform for two solid hours non-stop (minus one brief intermission), and the songs run the gamut from the energetic, campy and outrageous to the touching, poetic and poignant.
“Any kind of communication is a form of teaching,” once quipped the late Stephen Sondheim and there are plenty of teachable moments to be had as one watches the overall era presented in this production.
The production is staged by Maurice Emmanuel Parent who co-choreographed with Ilyse Robbins. The cast executes the choreography with an infectious enthusiasm and vitality that makes the numbers absolute thrilling to watch.
The set design by Jon Savage and the entire Greater Boston Stage creative team immediately transports us back to a "Cotton Club" style nightclub where the gin is cold but the piano's hot. Overhead chandeliers augment the fine lighting choices used to set the ambience for the evening. Costumes by Elisabetta Polito were 100 percent on target for the era.
The superb onstage band is led by Music Director Dan Rodruguez (who co-directed the music with David Freeman Coleman) who appears on stage, with back to the audience, and banging our all the right hot piano keys (a la “Fats”) for the entire show. Rodriguez, like the cast, hardly ever leaves the stage.
Like the song points out, “The Joint Is Jumping” and it is totally thanks to the energy the cast brings collectively, in their various combinations and in their solo moments.
One oddball number in the show, the “Jitterbug Waltz” (with lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.), stands apart from most of the show’s score. While it is a legitimate waltz, it comes with a nasty, bluesy, almost 'erotic' groove that serves to steam up the entire stage with its sultry approach.
The song feels closer to something written by the late Harry Nilsson rather than Fats Waller but then, as the songs continue, one might easily see how it was the incomparable Waller who influenced entire generations of composers with his signature style of composition.
Poignancy truly comes along during the Act Two number, “Black and Blue” which lyrically points out, “My only sin is in my skin” and asks the question, “What did I do to be so black and blue?” (Lyrics by Andy Razaf with music provided by Waller and Harry Brooks).
Yet, even with the above mentioned highlights, it bears repeating that ALL of the show’s songs are winners thanks to the overall camaraderie and cohesiveness of the cast.
Other standout performances include “The Viper’s Drag/Reefer Song,” as performed brilliantly by Jackson Jirard and “Mean to Me” (Music and Lyrics by Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert) performed tenderly and with great depth by Lovely Hoffman.
(PHOTO: Jackson Jirard and Christina Jones and the cast of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” now playing at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Ma. through June 26, 2022. Photo by Nile Scott Studios)
With so much happening during the month of June...graduations, weddings, vacations, other productions...and that aforementioned basketball championship in the mix...some shows are being missed out on.
Normal for this time of year, for sure. However, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is one event that should not be pushed to the side.
This is a musical that shoots straight from the hip - and scores. As mentioned, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” does not come along as often as it should. DO NOT MISS your opportunity now to see this fantastic show.
Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
Sassy, sultry and celebratory!
Get your tickets for the Tony award- winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Experience the Harlem Renaissance at The Cotton Club as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and the Dandridge Sisters shape an artform alongside Thomas “Fats” Waller.
Join us for an evening of music that encapsulates the love, longing, and zest for life of the era.
Photography credit: Nile Scott Studios
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is co-produced by The Nora at Central Square Theater, The Front Porch Arts Collective, and Greater Boston Stage Company.
Casey Blackbird - Production Manager
Shauwna Dias Grillo* - Production Stage Manager
Melissa Smith - Assistant Stage Manager
Creative Team: Jeff Adelberg+ - Lighting Designer, Tessa Johnson - Props Designer, Tori Oakes - Scenic Builder, Aria Pegg - Scenic Design Associate, Elisabetta Polito+ - Costume Designer, Jon Savage+ - Scenic Designer.
The Nora at Central Square Theater: Lee Mikeska Gardner, Artistic Director
The Front Porch Arts Collective: Dawn M. Simmons, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Co-Producing Artistic Directors
Greater Boston Stage Company: Weylin Symes, Producing Artistic Director
Enjoy the show!
Originally produced by The Manhattan Theatre Club.
Originally produced on Broadway by Emanuel Azenberg, Dasha Epstein, The Shubert Organization, Jane Gaynor, and Ron Dante.
Ain't Misbehavin' is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).
All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. www. mtishows.com.
ABOUT GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY
We bring vibrant professional theatre and dramatic education beyond the boundaries of Boston, featuring world and regional premieres alongside fresh interpretations of familiar work. Within this setting, we uniquely foster the artists of tomorrow by providing ongoing performance and employment opportunities to our company of current and former students. Now in its 22nd Season of live theatre in Stoneham, MA, Greater Boston Stage Company produces five Mainstage shows, presents a series of Special Events, and runs year-round classes, lessons, and fully staged productions through The Young Company for students in grades 1–12.
Box Office Hours: Mondays – Fridays, noon to 6pm Box Office # 781-279-2200
395 Main Street
Stoneham, MA 02180