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Theater Review: "Ain't Misbehavin'" At The International City Theatre

Sara Itkis |
October 15, 2012 | 8:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The cast of "Ain't Misbehavin'" at the International City Theatre. Photo by Suzanne Mapes.
The cast of "Ain't Misbehavin'" at the International City Theatre. Photo by Suzanne Mapes.
To preface, I must raise a point that I had been unaware of upon arriving at the International City Theatre for the production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”: The aforementioned play is a ‘musical revue.’ According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, a revue is a “type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches.” It is not, as one would expect of something with the word “musical” in its title, a story with a plot, which happens to contain interludes of singing and dancing. For those of you for whom this fact is quite obvious, I apologize and hide to avoid your judging gaze. As the play began and the truth of this dawned upon me, I prepared myself for boredom and disappointment—but I could not have been more wrong. It didn’t take long for the cast to sweep away the audience with the fun and joy of this tribute to the jazz era. 

Throughout the course of the show, the cast of five performed an array of songs composed by Thomas “Fats” Waller, one of the most popular musicians of his time. From the playful opening number, the titular “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” to the foot-tappng “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” at the close, each piece brought its own unique shade to the palette. However, in an effort to make the revue more relatable for a modern audience, director Saundra McClain added her own touch as well. As a kind of prologue, the play began with Nikita Calame entering the stage out of the storm raging outdoors. Huddled inside a clearly modern raincoat, Nikita is surprised to find four men and women frozen in various positions around her living room, magically lit—thanks to Ben Pilat, the wonderful lighting designer—and dressed in dazzling 20’s get-up, courtesy of costume designer Kim DeShazo. An old radio, despite being unplugged, begins to play the opening number, bringing the cast to life. As the spirit of the Roaring Twenties spreads across the stage and into the audience, Calame is swept up with barely any resistance into the excitement, and she herself bursts into song and dance. The effortlessness with which Nikita is won over is equal to the ease with which the audience slips into total enjoyment of the performance. Yes, there is no plot guiding the audience through and no character arcs to follow, but one cannot help but be caught up in celebration of this period in American history. 

Jennifer Shelton and Philip Brandon in "Ain't Misbehavin'". Photo by Suzanne Mapes.
Jennifer Shelton and Philip Brandon in "Ain't Misbehavin'". Photo by Suzanne Mapes.
The cast also keeps the audience entertained with plenty of refreshing visual and aural humor throughout. Like the songs in the show, each member of the cast contributes his or her own unique traits to the ensemble. Phillip Brandon amuses with his comic facial expressions and deep laugh; Lacy Darryl Phillips impresses with his fresh style and groovy moves; Amber Mercomes stuns with her exquisite class and operatic voice; the delightful Niketa Calame wins over with her irresistible adorableness; and the sublime Jennifer Shelton seduces with her sexy charm and grace. Together, they comprise an ensemble defined by class and sass.

If you are looking for a tearful melodrama or a deeply emotional performance to set you on the edge of your seat, perhaps the ICT is not the place for you to spend an evening. If you do, however, end up there, you'll undoubtedly enjoy it—"Ain't Misbehavin'" hardly leaves you any other choice. 

Reach staff reporter Sara here.



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