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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fats Waller at the Stackner

The Rep ain't misbehavin' with its latest cabaret show

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Head on over to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret and you’ll find that the joint is really jumpin’ given the excellent production of Ain’t Mishbehavin’ currently shakin’ the rafters.

Based on the music of influential jazz composer and performer Thomas “Fats” Waller, this two-hour musical revue (including a 20-minute intermission) revisits Waller’s well-known works from the Harlem Renaissance (the show’s title and “Honeysuckle Rose” among them) as well as some stellar lesser-known gems (“I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling”). Mixed in are songs by other composers as well as the show’s creators Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz.

Rep Associate Artist Dan Kazemi makes his official directorial debut and he hits the jackpot twice over: first in creatively channeling this popular Broadway hit into the intimate Stackner space, and more importantly, in conjuring up the ensemble of five singers, dancers and musicians that make up the terrifically talented cast. The quintet—Britney Coleman, Christopher James Culberson, Kenney M. Green, Bethany Thomas (last seen in The Rep’s Ragtime) and Erin Willis—keep the energy high while singing, dancing and playing all manner of instruments with a precision and perfection all the more impressive, given the free-flowing party atmosphere. It’s a challenge to single out any one performer. They’re all just that great, individually and together. Yet, it’s Green’s steady hands on the juke joint piano that provide a lively course for the evening’s nonstop entertainment.

So if this never-ending winter has brought on a serious case of the blues, then lighten up and turn on the heat at Ain’t Misbehavin’. Before you know it, spring will be here. And that’s a promise.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through May 18, in the Stackner Cabaret at the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex, 108 E. Wells St. For tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukeerep.com.