Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 23, 2022

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, "Ain't Misbehavin'

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through July 9, 2022
by Shera Cohen

With an uncontrollable tap of your shoes on the floor of the theatre, a pleasantly stuck smile on your face, and slight shift of your shoulders back and forth, the enjoyment of "Ain't Misbehavin'" delivers all that one would expect. Frankly, it's debatable which group is having the better time -- the seated audience members or those onstage.

While not a musical, per se, "Ain't Misbehavin'" is titled "a musical show." In today's description, it would be a review logically strung together with an unspoken theme or plotline. Even for those unfamiliar with this piece of theatre, undoubtedly anyone over age 40 will recognize tunes like "Honeysuckle Rose," "The Joint is Jumpin',"Mean to Me," "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," "Two Sleepy People," and, of course, the title song.

Photo by Daniel Rader
Three women and two men are flawless singers in their consistent roles at once was the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, where Black singers took the stage, each given their opportunity to shine. The music is performed by soloists, duos, or the ensemble. The solos allow each of the three actresses to showcase their skills and clear dialogue. Maiesha McQueen lends sunshine to the fun "Cash for Your Trash," Anastacia McClesky offers a wink of the eye to her "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," and Allison Blackwell's "Squeeze Me" brings a splash of humor to this solo number. 

The two male actors are Arnold Harper II and Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Again, both are equal to the quality of the female component of the cast. A plus for the guys is that their numbers tend to be much for humorous than those of the ladies. Harper is a physically large man whose, "Your Feet's Too Big," comments on his shoes in a comic style, and Manning's "The Viper's Drag" shoes off his soft-shoe dance talent. Manning's lieth stature uses every appendage of his body as soft puddy, if you can envision that.

Speaking of choreography, Jeffrey L. Page, who also serves as director for "Ain't Misbehavin' moves his cast and one pianist seamlessly on the large stage with very few accoutrements. Not until Act II does the curtain of the semi-circle backdrop open for the audience to see the band. This devise purposely made Act II even more energetic and delightful than Act I. The full ensemble, cast and musicians, recreated what must have been the scene as it replicates the real Black Harlem band of decades ago. Music Director/pianist Kwinton Gray creates a full perspective for the audience.

It's no wonder that patrons left humming one of their favorite and most memorable songs from the review.