AIN’T MISBEHAVIN ‘on the Omaha Group Playhouse
If you’re looking for a night on the town with lights, dancing, and loads of swing and jazz, the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Ain’t Misbehavin ‘production is the place to go. Ain’t Misbehavin ‘opened on Broadway in 1978, ran for almost three years and even received both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for Best Musical. A tribute to the musical talents of Thomas “Fats” Waller, Ain’t Misbehavin ‘is a musical revue for the swing and jazz enthusiast in you.
Note that there is no actual plot or dialogue and the show is presented in concert style, which came as a surprise to me as I had little to no knowledge of the show prior to my experience on the preview night. The dancing is exciting. The harmonies are great. But I miss the story. I miss the connection between audience and actors that is made in a script made in typical musicals. Without dialogue, the audience sticks to the lyrics of the songs, and while a lot of the lyrics I got through are fun and sometimes even an important call for thought, there were plenty of lyrics that I struggled with be it over Lack of clarity about the theater (possibly due to diction or microphone issues) or (more importantly) the content after researching the songs and understanding some of the lyrics. During songs of her time, some of her messages regarding body image and a woman’s role in their relationship in 2021 don’t echo right away. While the cast and crew of this winning production are not to blame, with no context or real story-driven purpose, I found it a bit upsetting and something to consider.
Ain’t Misbehavin ‘is an evening of music and dance that rests on the shoulders of five talented Omaha artists and a dazzling creative team. Jim Othuse and Janet Morr provide the Omaha Community Playhouse audience with another gorgeous setting with a larger than life piano frame and bright and colorful lighting that highlights many of the energetic pieces of music. Lindsay Pape’s costumes pop in bright colors and help bring the characters to life visually. Jim Boggess and his orchestra bounce and deliver exciting melodies that the audience will remember long after they leave. Ray Mercer’s choreography is some of the best I’ve seen on the stages of Omaha lately, and it was a breath of fresh air to see artists on stage interacting with each other and getting physically involved, especially in dance. And no cast or creative team would be complete without a strong and dedicated director at the helm, and that’s what the Omaha Community Playhouse found in Kathy Tyree. Her direction is smart, engaging, and helps the artists hit the comedic and dramatic beats with ease.
The cast is strong vocally and comedically, with each artist having at least one number that stands out from the others. Jus. B makes his debut at the Omaha Community Playhouse and brings a rich and silky voice to the production. It’s a pleasure to listen to, with highlights like “Honeysuckle Rose” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”. I won’t be surprised to see him back on stage at the Omaha Community Playhouse anytime soon. Leiloni Brewer shines in her solo “Squeeze Me” and the audience laughter is well deserved for her comedic talent, which she displays throughout the production. Tiffany White-Welchen, an undeniably charming comedian, delivers her own strong solo performance with her warm and beautiful interpretation of “Mean To Me” and was a real crowd favorite for the preview audience. Dara Hogan has made a strong return on the Omaha stage, bringing down the house with her jaw-dropping performance of “Keepin ‘Out of Mischief Now”. Her chemistry with her frequent stage dance partner, DJ Tyree, is electric and fun to watch, which testifies not only to the talent of the choreographer, but the talent of these performers as well. DJ Tyree is unstoppable on his “How Ya Baby” and “The Viper’s Drag” performances, and I honestly struggled to take my eyes off him. His dancing is smooth and effortless, his character selections believable, and his singing is a match of a game that makes him a true triple threat. Every performer left everything on stage and can be proud of the production they created.
Ain’t Misbehavin ‘is a great time and yet another achievement in a stellar season for the Omaha Community Playhouse. Production runs from May 21 to June 20, 2021 and is sure to be a community favorite, so reserve your tickets soon. For tickets, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse box office, call 402-553-0800, or visit https://ticketedmonton.com/Productions/ain’t-misbehavin ‘.