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Yes! Foot- Stomping Jazzy Joy from Harlem to Lambertville- "Aint Misbehavin’" at MMT By John Dwyer

“Ain’t Misbehavin’”, winner of the 1978 Tony for Best Musical, now playing at Music Mountain Theater is a musical revue. A musical revue is a special kind of animal. There is an arc to a revue. Often there is not a story per se, but there is a theme In a regular musical, the songs serve the story. In a revue, everything is structured to serve the songs.

The most important aspect of a revue is that mysterious glue that exists between the performers of it. Magic happens when they believe in the material and the material is good. But the real wizardry materializes when they believe in each other. At Music Mountain, this cast is so connected to each other and so at ease, they easily transport us all to Fats Waller’s uptown Harlem of the 1930’s. (Fats Waller is the composer of the title song and most of the songs in the show)

Under the superb direction of Tyree Taylor and Louis Palena, these triple threat performers have been given the space to do what they do best: to sing, dance and act. The talented Mr. Taylor also choreographs. He has a long list of dancing credits in his bio and it shows. The tightness of these excellent actors, ad libbing at times, loving every moment creates a very special atmosphere. In alphabetical order, they are Tia Brown, Justin Derry, Siiyara Nelson, Jazzy Thomas, Shan Williams II.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible live band that is on stage throughout. On piano is musical director Sue Den Outer, percussion Aaron Allen, bass Ali Bervine and Meghan Doyle, reeds Jarod Mellus, trumpet Marty Weisberg. When often musicals have tracks and not a live band, it is a treat to have excellent musicians accompany excellent singers, as in this case.

So many wonderful moments. I am a huge fan of Siiyara Nelson, who I make a special effort to see her when I know she is in anything. If she sang the phone book, you would be mesmerized from AA Locksmith to Zenith Appliance Store. Just sayin.’ Loved her “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling.” Tia Brown is charismatic, dances with style and energy and owns “Yacht Club Swing.” Jazzy Thomas’s gorgeous voice was expected but her sass was so on point with her duet with Shan William II, “That Aint Right.” Shan Williams II is a great leading man, who can do it all. With direction from choreographer Taylor, he is sly, slippery and mesmerizing in the song “The Viper,” Loved the ebullient Justin Derry throughout, especially his hilarious ”Your Feet’s Too Big.” Knowledgeable area theater-goers will recognize Derry, Nelson, Thomas, Williams and Brown’s names. And that, in and of itself (knowing their work from previous shows) will be enough to buy a ticket.

When the ensemble sings, these folks bring the house down in excitement as in “The Joint Is Jumpin’” or move us to quiet sadness with “Black and Blue.” The costumes by Jordan Brennan are exceptional as well. A well deserved standing ovation was given at the end. But, after the cast left, what also was notable was that many of us stayed as the band played on.

Sue Den Outer and troop played exit music for the audience. When the band stopped., BAM! Shouts, applause, hoots of approval erupted again. And why?

Cuz, Music Mountain, through January 29th, “The Joint Is Jumpin!!!”

Photos: John Posada
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