REVIEW: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Southwark Playhouse

While there might not be any central plot, sit back and enjoy the music and dancing anyway in this fun and energetic production.

(c)Pamela Raith

From the second you step into the glitzy auditorium at the Southwark Playhouse, prepare to soak up the cool and sophisticated vibe that this confident and lively production possesses – as well of course the wonderful music and choreography.

While Ain’t Misbehavin’ is described as a musical, in fact it feels more like a celebration of Fats Waller’s music performed by a wide variety of different personalities that are excellently characterised by the cast. From ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ to ‘The Viper’s Drag’, the show highlights a huge range of Waller’s musical styles, encapsulated in this immensely enjoyable production.

Making his directorial debut, Tyrone Huntley effectively sweeps the audience back to the jazz era by ensuring that the focus is maintained on the wonderfulness of the music, keeping the production straightforward but stylish. There are moments when the format of the musical feels a little repetitive, particularly towards the end – but Huntley ensures that it never really loses its sparkling charm.

With the help of takis suitably glitzy set design and Oti Mabouse’s stylish and varied choreography, Huntley’s production really ensures that the audience feels as though they are actually sitting in an intimate jazz club.

Mabouse’s choreography throughout is wonderfully varied, throwing in plenty of elements of Charleston and swing – filled with plenty of personality, thanks to the cast really putting their heart and soul into performing it to a high standard. In particular, the routines to ‘Off-Time’ and ‘The Joint is Jumpin’ are real highlights of the show, filled with great energy and making the most of the space available.

The onstage musicians beautifully bring songs such as ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ and ‘I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling’ to life, capturing the soulful elements of the show just as well as the more energetic numbers. Meanwhile, the cast highlights just how the songs convey different stories and characters, despite the fact there is no central story you feel you are getting plenty of characters to invest yourself in – even if it is only for a short period of time. Carly Mercedes-Dyer is adorably comical throughout and a real bundle of energy, Landi Oshinowo is a confident and dynamic force, Renee Lamb is sassy and is mesmerising to watch and listen to with her ability to convey emotion. Meanwhile, Adrian Hansel and Wayne Robinson are both equally charismatic, with gorgeous silky smooth vocals that is a pleasure to listen to.

This production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ oozes with personality and sophistication. Its exuberance and energy is wonderful to watch as each song moves seamlessly from one to the other – really entertaining to watch from start to finish.

By Emma Clarendon

Ain’t Misbehavin’ continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 1st June.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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