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Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy’s high-octane presentation of Ain’t Misbehavin’, a robust and occasionally raunchy musical revue based on the songs written and/or recorded by the original stride-piano man Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller (1904-43), a lovable rascal who once described himself as “285 lbs. of jam, jive, and everything,” had the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy Theater jumpin’ on opening night, Aug. 22nd. Snappy staging by director and choreographer Matthew-Jason Willis and stellar performances by Nina Gunnell, Tina Morris-Anderson, Yolanda Rabun, Jason Dolby, and Dale Sanders combined with sizzling accompaniment by musical director McCrae Hardy (piano) and Damon Brown (bass), Bobby Hinson (trumpet), Mike Kris (trombone), Carlton Miles (drums), Steve Rose (clarinet and alto sax), and Larry Suvak (clarinet and tenor sax) to make Ain’t Misbehavin’ a marvelous musical treat, complete with complimentary drinks and dessert at intermission.
Highlights in an evening chock-full of highlights include:
• An energetic ensemble version of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that starts with a Fats Waller recording and smoothly segues into a live rendition by the HSN ensemble and band — a bunch of cats who can really wail, as they prove in number after number.
• Jason Dolby’s sassy solo on “Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.”
• Dale Sanders and Yolanda Rabun’s sweet duet on “Honeysuckle Rose.”
• Yolanda Rabun’s kittenish solo on “Squeeze Me.”
• Dolby and Sanders’ hilarious comic hijinks in their pithy putdown of “The Ladies Who Sing with the Band” — in Act One — and ribald excoriation of fellows who are “Fat and Greasy” — in Act Two.
• Nina Gunnell’s spunky interpretation of “Cash for Your Trash”
• The rousing first-act finale (“The Joint Is Jumpin’”).
• Jason Dolby’s stoned lounge-lizard shenanigans during “The Reefer Song.”
• Tina Morris-Anderson’s plaintive heartfelt lament on “Mean to Me.”
• Dale Sanders’ delightful digs at a sweetheart whose “Feet’s Too Big”
• Yolanda Rabun’s rueful fidelity to her man in “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now.”
• Morris-Anderson and Gunnell’s cynical commentary about how to keep a man satisfied in “Find Out What They Like.”
• A poignant ensemble rendition of “Black and Blue”
• Dale Sanders’ frisky version of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and his silky duet with Tina Morris-Anderson on “Two Sleepy People.”
• Jason Dolby’s protestations Yolanda Rabun that “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”
Director and choreographer Matthew-Jason Willis and musical director McCrae Hardy put pizzazz into every scene; set and lighting designer Curtis Lee Jones and costume designer Casey Watkins create a heady nightclub ambience on the Kennedy Theater stage; and sound designer Brian L. Hunt not only balances the cast’s vivacious vocals and the band’s exuberant accompaniment, but he seamlessly inserts sound effects and snippets of from Fats Waller performances. Don’t miss Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presents Ain’t Misbehavin’ Wednesday-Saturday Aug. 22-25 and Aug. 29-Sept. 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, at 3 p.m. in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $27.50, except $20 Sunday matinees and senior group rates. Progress Energy Center Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates: 919/828-3726. Note: There will be FREE complimentary beverages and desserts at all intermissions. Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/shows.html#am [inactive 2/10]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=1425. Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0227999/. Fats Waller Forever (a digital exhibit of Fats Waller’s musical career): http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/ijs/fw/fatsmain.htm. Thomas “Fats” Waller (a tribute to the King of Stride Piano): http://perso.orange.fr/jcarl.simonetti/home [inactive 10/08].