The whole joint's a jumpin' at the Poteet Theatre. No one's being bad exactly — they just “Ain't Misbehavin'”! While not everyone in the world is necessarily a jazz fan, every soul has to love Fats Waller.
Born in 1904, Thomas “Fats” Waller was organist at his father's church at age 10. By 18, he was a recording artist making the big time. He died of pneumonia in 1943 while touring the country. But in the years between, this symbol of Harlem and inspiration to the civil rights movement created a lot of great music.
In 1978, “Ain't Misbehavin'” became a Broadway sensation and paid tribute to Waller's music. Co-author Murray Horwitz sent a letter to the Poteet Theatre that was printed in the program: “I wish I could be there it see it myself because I have always enjoyed my visits to Oklahoma City ...”.
Eleven band members, including director Fred Hammond III, keep the audience clapping, toe tapping and knee slapping. Director and set designer Jay Prock places the band back and center so the acoustics are pleasant.
Assistant director Pamela Rise and choreographer Sherri Smith bring a great deal of creativity to the production. But the soul of the show is revealed by the cast. The voices of DeVin Lewis and Christopher Jones sail clearly throughout the auditorium.
Charlie Ludden is equally terrific in his highlight performances. Tracey Jordan Esaw has a beautiful voice; his “That Ain't Right” is right on. Andrea Coleman conveys enthusiasm and excitement.
Tyler Andrew Bowler is far too young (high school age) to be this smooth sounding. Regina Joy Banks' interpretations are soulful and heartwarming while the notes of Helen Richards lend body to the performances.
Kierro Markese Thompson is especially entertaining in his rendition of “The Viper's Drag.” Three dancing waitresses with soul round out the troupe: Bailey Anne Smith, Alisha Ragon and Lexy Neira.
This is a fun show and while the voices, especially those of Lewis and Jones, are wonderful — the best part comes from the audience and Fats Waller himself. By the fourth number, “Honeysuckle Rose,” everyone on stage or off can sing and dance with colorful harmony and mischievous pleasure. OK, apologies to my companion riding shotgun on the way home.
— Elizabeth Hurd