Review: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at Toby’s Dinner Theatre

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The joint is jumping, and the stars are strutting to legendary jazz great Thomas “Fats” Waller’s exuberant melodies at Toby’s Dinner Theatre with an all-embracing musical revue of 30 soul-stirring songs in its latest headlining show, Ain’t Misbehavin’.

The cast of Ain't Misbehavin', now playing at Toby's Dinner Theatre. Photo courtesy of Toby's Dinner Theatre.
The cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’, now playing at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Photo courtesy of Toby’s Dinner Theatre.

Hearkening the Harlem Renaissance era with an exclusive excursion to “Fats’ Supper Club,” exquisitely illuminated by Lighting Director Lynn Joslin, Musical Director/Conductor Ross Scott Rawlings and his seven-piece orchestra (featuring Pianist Greg Knauf/Paige Rammelkamp, Reed I Charlene McDaniel/Hunter McDonald/Dan Puckett/Lori Fowser, Reeds II Brian Butler/Steve Haaser/Dan Janis/Katie Kellert, Trombonist Patrick Crossland/Jay Ellis/Daniel Pendly/Seth Rees, Trumpeter Mike Baber/Tony Neenan, Bassist Frank Higgins/Yoshi Horiguchi, and Drummer Bob LaForce/Evander McLean/Glenn Scimonelli), set the gears in motion for each of the talented five-member ensemble (Kelli Blackwell, Kadejah Oné, Bryan Jeffery, Tobias A. Young, and Kanysha Williams) to shine in their respective numbers.

Effectively utilizing every conceivable space and transitional moment, Director Monique Midgette, along with Artistic Director Toby Orenstein, Projection Designer Denise Rose and Scenic Designer David A. Hopkins, recreates the mystical 1920s-1930s nightclub scene with cyclic black and white photos and intermittent video projections in between showcasing the vocal gifts of each performer who was fittingly dressed with dons of that day by Costume Designer Janine Sunday.

Whether they were singing solo or in duet, trio, quartet or in full quintet, each member of the cast was impressive with their part, particularly when they launched into their stunning harmonies (“Black and Blue” and “Lounging at the Waldorf”), which were fulsomely theatricalized with animated sideshows (“The Viper’s Drag” or “The Reefer’s Song”) spiced with tongue and cheek humor (Tobias A. Young’s “Your Feet’s Too Big”) and heartfelt ballads (Kadejah Oné’s “Mean to Me”), as well as rousing choreography stylized by Shalyce Hemby (demonstratively displayed by Bryan Jeffrey and Kanysha Williams in “How Ya Baby”).

A kaleidoscopic ode to Fats Waller’s wide-ranging medley of swing, jazz, blues, bebop, and ragtime, Toby’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ offers a tuneful, toe-tapping trip worth taking.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ plays through November 4, 2018, at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia—5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD. For reservations, call (410) 730-8311 or 800-88TOBYS, or purchase them online at Ticketmaster.

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