The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Ain’t Misbehavin’

No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I'm happy on the
Ain't misbehavin' I'm savin' my love for you

— lyric from title song
Ain't Misbehavin'
Tyrone Davis, Jr. as André
Either by association or direct composition, the legendary composer/pianist/entertainer Fats Waller (1904 - 1943) was famed for "Spreadin' Rhythm Around." Thirty-three years ago a sizzling, if small-scaled, revue called Ain't Misbehavin' proved a winning homage to the great Waller.

The show, originally conceived by Richard Maltby, was so red hot, sassy and popular it moved from the Manhattan Theater Club to Broadway where it stayed for 1,604 performances and its stars (the late) Nell Carter, André De Shields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page and Charlaine Woodard became themselves virtual legends overnight. Only time will tell if the exuberant and appealing production appearing at the Crossroads Theater will give birth to any new legends. But based on their performances on opening night, they are well on their way.

It is a pleasure to report that “the joint” (with a respectful apology to Crossroads Theater) in New Brunswick will definitely be jumpin' through October 23rd to the same feverishly joyous repertoire that has kept audiences clapping and cheering in many of our regional theaters and even abroad since 1978. Under the direction of André De Shields, who was a member of the original Broadway company and is now also serving as choreographer, the production showcases a great cast that has been carefully selected for (in keeping with the dictates of the Fats Waller song) "Lookin' Good but Feelin' Bad." The handsome black and gold set, including the painted piano keys on the stage floor, designed by Burke Wilmore (who also did the splashy lighting) reflects the vogue for Art Deco during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.

In addition to having De Shield’s at the helm, there was the added treat of seeing the show’s original musical director J. Leonard Oxley at the piano to heighten our joy (“One never knows, do one”) where said ivories are being tickled “Black and Blue.” In this era of deconstructing musical classics, De Shields has happily not ventured far from the original’s presentational style, and keeps the back-to-back songs coming at us as if they were the result of spontaneous combustion.

Whether we call it a high-voltage celebration of one of the great jazz pianists of the 20th century, or simply a testimony to the kind of spirit-lifting, soul-satisfying and sensory-captivating music that largely defined an era, Ain’t Misbehavin’” is still much more than a steamroller of a cabaret show. Be assured the De Shields (he looked smashing greeting people in the lobby with his inimitable warm smile and wearing a fire-engine red tuxedo) makes sure there is plenty of time and space for the five super performers to have fun with personality conflicts, dramatic interplay and comedic horseplay that have define their characters. And let’s not forget the deliciously sexy-as-hell subtext that drives the show.

This is one show that doesn’t need much embroidery, call it gilding the “Honeysuckle Rose,” to deflect from the bountiful satire, innocent self-mockery, and the audacious attitude inherent in the extensive Waller repertoire. There is plenty of attitude to be seen in the stunning, glittery but not gaudy, attire that Deborah Caney has provided for the three women and the ultra dapper ensembles for two men.

Despite the impact made by individual performers, the show remains a group effort with most numbers showcasing each of them as part of an electrifying ensemble. However, it would be remiss not to mention Johmaalya Adelekan, a feisty package of sizzling sensuality who undoubtedly means it when she sings “Squeeze Me.” She is also quite marvelous poking fun at the wartime-remembered bellowing of Kate Smith with "When the Nylons Bloom Again." This is part of the World War commemorative medley that also features Rheume Crenshaw and Zurin Villanueva and includes such rousers (relics?) as "Cash For Your Trash," "Off Time," and "Yacht Club Swing."

Crenshaw has that unique vocal quality that will bring back the memory of Nell Carter, but she puts her own dynamic stamp on such favorites as “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” and “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling.” And again conspiring with Vallanueva and Adelekan, she adds the kind of provocative edge to “Find Out What They Like” that brings it close to being a show-stopper. . . as do many of the numbers. Vallanueva, who is as slim and rambunctious as Crenshaw and Adelekan are zaftig and sassy, takes our breath away with the rapidly fired gem “I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed.”

Tyrone Davis, Jr. who is playing the part originated by De Shields, slithers evocatively through the once provocative but still amusingly insinuating “The Viper's Song" (also known as "The Reefer's Song"). A sensational dancer, he also gets plenty of opportunities to also display his ingratiating personality in “How Ya Baby” partnering with the leggy Vallanueva and by inviting audience participation in "Fat and Greasy."

Jacob Ming-Trent has no trouble making his presence account for much of the show's success with "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" and the funny "Your Feet's Too Big." His girth doesn’t stop him from becoming as much a contributor as anyone in the dancing portions, as bracingly choreographed by De Shields.

De Shields has found himself a cast that not only does the Waller legacy proud but also supports it with the kind of effusive jitterbuggin,' sashayin' and struttin,' that makes this show one of the most entertaining and fun shows you are currently likely to find. The extended finale, consisting of a medley of songs recorded (but not composed) by Waller, also packs a wallop. It confirms that this is one production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that should not be missed.

Ain’t Misbehavin’
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. & Murray Horwitz
Directed and Choreographed by AndréDe Shields

Cast: Johmaalya Adeelkan (Armelia), Rheaume Crenshaw (Nell), Tyrone Davis, Jr. (André), Jacob Ming-Trent (Ken), Zurin Villanueva (Charlaine), J. Leonard Oxley (Hank, pianist)
Musical Direction: J. Leonard Oxley
Costume Design: Deborah Caney
Sound Design: Joshua Reid
Scenic & Lighting Design: Burke Wilmore
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
Crossroads Theatre Company, 7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, N.J.
(732) 545 – 8100
Tickets ($50.00)
Performances: Evenings at 8 PM: October 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22. Matinees at 3 PM October 9, 15, 16, 22, 23. School Matinee: 10 AM October 19.
From: 10/06/11
Opening: 10/08/11
Closing: 10/23/11
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/08/11
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • I disagree with the review of Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • The review made me eager to see Ain’t Misbehavin’
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter and Curtainup's Blog Annex
Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company



©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from