The title of the Fats Waller revue "Ain't Misbehavin'" is a flat-out lie. From the smoking of a foot-long joint in the intoxicatingly seductive "The Reefer's Song" to the not-so-subtle sexual innuendo of the Waller classics "Squeeze Me" and "Find Out What They Like," there's plenty of mischief, energy and fun to be had, thanks to a top-notch cast of performers.
Although the Tony Award-winning Murray Horwitz/Richard Maltby Jr. revue has been around for 20 years, it still has the power to thoroughly entertain. And in the end, the striking harmonies of hard-hitting "Black and Blue" make the audience ponder a thing or two about race relations.
The rather amateurish Art Deco set, rolled out after the buffet carts are wheeled away, does little to add to or detract from the talented cast assembled by director Mark Howard. Pascha Weaver, Vernita Burrell, Allen Hidalgo, Glenn Burchette and April Spencer prove their tight ensemble quality in the opening song, "Ain't Misbehavin'," before branching out on their talent in solo numbers and duets. Weaver exudes a wry blend of sweetness and naughtiness in the droll "Squeeze Me" and is a joy to watch as she and Hidalgo battle to upstage each other in the Nat King Cole-penned "That Ain't Right."
Hidalgo, whose lithe dance movements lend an eerie sensuality to "The Viper's Drag," shines on "Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," as well as the audience favorite "Fat and Greasy" ("that's "greeezzzzy" ) with Burchette.
With a big voice and an engaging personality, Burchette's larger-than-life numbers range from broad burlesque in "Your Feets Too Big" to subtle condescension in "Lounging at the Waldorf," a humorous look at concessions made by black performers working at an upper-crust hotel. Burrell displays great comedic timing and an equally versatile vocal range, reaching perfection on the torchy "Mean To Me."
When musical director Patrick Nugent joins the ensemble onstage and tickles the ivories, the canned music that accompanies him often hinders the singers' rhythmic flexibility. But that's a small complaint. When the cast closes Act 1 with "This Joint Is Jumpin'," they're finally telling the truth.