Thursday 25 April 2019

Ain't Misbehavin' - Review

Southwark Playhouse, London


Music by Fats Waller
Based on an idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr
Directed by Tyrone Huntley

The cast of Ain't Misbehavin'

Not seen on a London stage for 40 years, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is gloriously revived at Southwark Playhouse in a co-production with Colchester’s Mercury Theatre.

More of a revue than a musical - there’s no narrative thread outside of each individual song’s arc - the show’s beautifully voiced quintet whirl through thirty or so Fats Waller numbers in an evening that captures the Jazz Age in New York’s Harlem.

The songs are a selection of American Songbook favourites together with the less well-known and it is a credit to director Tyrone Huntley, in his first stint at helming a production, that he extracts not only humour, but also pathos and passion from his talented cast. 

The five performers work impressively as a well drilled troupe - and credit here to  Oti Mabuse’s slick and imaginative choreography that makes fine use of the Southwark’s tight thrust space. But more than just an ensemble, Huntley finds room for each performer to deliver powerful solo turns too.

takis’s ingenious set has travelled well from Essex. A glitzy, archy, tunnelled trompe l’oeil that sits atop a gold burnished floor. Unquestionably brash, yet takis has fashioned a design that complements the piece perfectly, suggesting a nightclub that could have been a magical escape from the poverty of Harlem.

The music is great too. On piano, Alex Cockle conducts his 6 piece combo with nuanced gusto, the non-stop music proving an absolute delight.

With Ain’t Misbehavin' Southwark Playhouse again proves itself as a venue for top-notch Off West End entertainment.

Runs until 1st June
Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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