Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
A New York cast comprised of Phillip Boykin, Joy Lynn Jacobs, Shirley Tripp, Debra Walton, and Reggie Whitehead knocked themselves out to elate the capacity audience.
Ron Hutchins directed them at such breakneck speed and intensity throughout, that it was a welcome respite when things calmed down a bit and the magnificent Fats Waller music could be savored and absorbed. Hutchins is one of the pre-eminent choreographer/directors in the area and his staging is clear, precise and energetic ... to put it mildly.
With some musicals, it is a pleasure to discover that the lyrics are just as important as the melodies. Ain't Misbehavin' is one such show. Ultimately, when showcased in ballads, the glory of what was Waller sparkles through like the diamond he was. "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now", beautifully sung and artfully underplayed by Debra Walton, has the subtle intensity that the production could use more of. "Black and Blue" brings the audience to reverential silence and then massive cheers. All five performers are simply seated on chairs. Isn't it amazing how stillness can be more potent than action?
Reggie Whitehead, last seen at The Wick as Horse in The Full Monty, appears to not have a bone in his body. The finest dancer in the quintet, he is fascinating to watch; even in his subtlest of movements, he is mesmerizing.
Adding to the fun, The Wick, for the first time, has a live band on stage and what a difference that makes. Led by musical director/pianist Charles Creath, they all deserve credit: Josh Allen on bass, Jeff Renza on drums, Tom McCormick on woodwinds, Douglas Michels on trumpet and, last but not least, Jason Pyle on trombone. One is loathe to think what Ain't Misbehavin' would sound like if tracks had been used rather than this phenomenal sextet.
From the evocatively beautiful set of a nightclub in Harlem designed by Sean McClelland, to the mood-shifting lighting by Jose Santiago, and the non-intrusive sound (and that's saying something) by Adam Pitts, everything gels to add to the evening's enjoyment.
The Wick knows how to throw a party. Entering the theatre, where the beautiful lobby has been transformed into The Cotton Club, we were offered complimentary champagne and snacks passed out by 1930s costumed ladies and gentlemen. At intermission, a huge birthday cake was cut up for the 300 attendees.
Marilynn Wick has struck gold in Boca. From the time she took over the theatre to the opening night of her premier production, The Sound of Music, she has managed the impossible in a mind-boggling four months. With her first season behind her, and a terrific lineup for next season, she and her theatre are a welcome addition to the South Florida theatrical landscape. It is of great importance for a theatre owner to know what their audience wants. Marilynn has done just that. I raise a glass of champagne to her. Congratulations!
Ain't Misbehavin runs through June 1, 2014, at the Wick Theatre, 7901 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33487. For tickets and performance information, call 561-995-2333 or visit www.thewick.org.
-- Jeffrey Bruce