I had never watched someone get high on marijuana until I went to “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Phoenix Theatre. Obviously, it wasn’t real (I hope), but the smoke twisting through the green spotlight certainly made it very realistic. That was one of the great moments of the show.
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a musical comedy that pushes boundaries and received many laughs from the audience because of the pure audacity as well as ridiculousness of the show. Unfortunately, despite my love for Phoenix Theatre productions, there were very few parts of the show I actually enjoyed.
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a unique musical with few spoken words. Instead, it pays homage to some of the great black musicians during the 1920s and 1930s. The Tony Award-winning musical features song after song of catchy, often humorous and raunchy hits that were popular during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that took place during that time.
There were love songs, songs made to dance to, Broadway-style songs and even songs written purely for laughs, such as “Your Feet’s Too Big.” All of the songs were performed by a cast of five — two men and three women.
While the show is intended to be comical, a bit crude and even outrageous, it felt a tad off to me. The acting choices and facials seemed too extreme, and at times, I felt as if the actors were trying so hard to be funny that they missed the mark completely. It often felt like more of a musical comedy spoof than a musical comedy.
I found that the parts of the show I truly did enjoy were the few parts that weren’t intended to be funny — just good singing and wonderful lighting and set design. All the members of the cast were extremely talented singers and dancers, and I enjoyed the wonderful harmonies in “Off-Time” as well as the songs “Black and Blue” and “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling.”
However, it’s the lighting director, Mike Eddy, and scenic director, Yoon Bae, who really deserve a standing ovation. The lighting and set designs were perfect and enhanced the songs and show as a whole. The large piano lining the wall of the theater was incredible and the gorgeous lighting for every number really saved some of the less popular scenes. The hundreds of colorful bottles of liquor lining the shelves of the bar were a nice touch, too.
But despite my criticism and personal distaste for the interpretation of parts of the show, the majority of the audience at Phoenix Theatre really seemed to enjoy themselves, and it’s not too late to see if you will join the ranks of those who loved the show. It will be performed through Feb. 16, and tickets are currently available at the Phoenix Theatre box office on www.phoenixtheatre.com.