Theatre Review: Foot Stomping Fun at Depot Theatre’s Ain’t Misbehavin’

Ain't Misbehavin' at The Depot Theatre, Westport
(photo credit: Overtimephotobooth.com)
When: August 16, 19, 23, 26 at 5 pm, August 17, 24, 25 at 7 pm and August 18 at 3 pm (Depot Dialogue to follow matinee) 
Tickets $35/standard, $32/senior or student 
Location: Depot Theatre, Westport, NY
Call: 518-962-4449 or purchase tickets online  (a service fee is applied to all online sales)

(Westport) The Depot Theatre is making sure its 40th year celebration reaches new heights with the opening of the Tony award winning musical  tribute to jazz great Fats Waller. 

Depot Theatre’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ celebrates the Waller songbook with an ensemble cast that has the audience clapping, stomping, and rising out of their seats. 

The simple set by Bonnie Brewer flows from the intimate feeling of an 1930s speakeasy to the glamorous Savoy Ballroom or Cotton Club. The cocktail tables surrounding the upright piano allows the cast the necessary space to move. Margaret Swick’s clever use of lighting creates the right amount of ambience whether she spotlights an individual artist or dims the lights to embrace the performers on stage.

Anna Anderson and Yvette Monique Clarke
take to the stage
while James Roberts IV, Katelyn Bowman
and Larry Darnell Penn Whitefield
surround Phillip Hall at the piano

(photo credit: Overtimephotobooth.com)
Director and Choreographer Kenney Green pulls perfection from each performer as they honor Waller in the best way possible, with pitch perfect tone, smooth dance moves, and brilliant timing.   The whole cast consists of five performers and a three-piece band, but when they move and sing the audience is transformed back in time to the height of jazz. Dapper suits and bowler hats for the men and gorgeous ballgowns further cements that aura. 

Yvette Monique Clark, Larry Darnell Penn Whitefield, Anna Anderson, Katelyn Bowman, and James Roberts IV step on stage and time stands still. They fill the stage with infectious energy from beginning to end.  You don’t have to be a jazz fan to watch Ain’t Misbehavin’, but you’ll leave the theater as one.  It’s an upbeat, toe-tapping wonder that pulls the best out of each artist on stage. Each song presents a new opportunity for the ensemble to showcase their individual skills. 

Musical Director and pianist Phillip Hall plays the score with his back to the audience for most of the whole performance. He is flanked by Kyle Murray on Percussion and Finn Gardner-Puschak on Bass. The trio blend into the background when necessary or shine on stage, depending on each song. 

Katelyn Bowman brings the flirtatious ingenue to life. Anna Anderson’s character is wonderfully shy and retreating and then flips to jealous girlfriend with ease. Larry Darnell Penn Whitefield and James Roberts IV play off each other as they charm the ladies and audience.

Music feeds the soul
and Depot Theatre’s production of 
Ain’t Misbehavin’ 

makes sure the audience leaves full, satisfied, and wanting more.
(photo credit: Overtimephotobooth.com)
There are plenty of standout moments because this ensemble works together like a well-oiled machine. Each performer moves gracefully from song to song, feeding each other lines with incredible harmonies, rich voices, and amazing range. Two stand out performances go to Clark’s radio show rendition of  Cash for Your Trash and Roberts’ slithering Viper’s Drag, but other people in the audience had their own favorite songs.   

The one jolting moment in two hours of gaiety is the riveting song Black and Blue. The cast are seated, motionless so the audience can fully reflect on how a song written in 1929 about race and being black can still be relevant today. 

Music feeds the soul and Depot Theatre’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ makes sure the audience leaves full, satisfied, and wanting more. The next performances are August 16,19,23,26 and 5 pm, August 17, 24, 25 at 7 pm and a matinee on August 18 at 3. Tickets are $35 for adults and $32 for seniors/students. All performances are at the iconic Depot Theatre in Westport, NY. 

All photos are © Depot Theatre and used with permission.

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.

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