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'Ain't misbehavin' celebrates Fats Waller

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to the Village News

The juke joint is hoppin’ at “Ain’t Misbehavin” in Escondido. Celebrating the life’s work of Thomas “Fats” Waller, this show sashays through his music with sass.

Five snappy co-stars light up the stage. In alphabetical order they are Felicia Fairley, Paula Galloway, Mark Howard, Katie Porter, and DeAndre Simmons.

Each co-star enjoys stand-alone moments like chanteuse Galloway singing “Honeysuckle Rose,” or Porter chanting “Squeeze Me,” and then Fairley is “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” but is she really?

Howard slithers his way through “The Viper’s Drag” with grace followed by Simmons killing it with “Your Feet’s Too Big!”

Their electrifying talent jumps ‘n jives in “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Wow, it’s a colossal hit.

In just their second year, CCAE Theatrical Productions artistic director J. Scott Lapp and managing producer Jordan Beck pull off the unexpected. A full-blown theatrical company with international connections. This world-class team of pros starts with the casting director Lindsay Brooks. Her every choice is spot on.

Next up is award-winning hoofer Lacy Darryl Phillips. His style of choreography brands every on-stage move and leaves nothing to chance from an off-handed low-five to the complicated slithering of a viper. Phillips’ choreography is a complex ballet in jive.

Two-time Grammy nominee Kevin Toney masterfully conducts the on-stage band from his upright. Malcolm Jones and John Bowman play reeds, Kevin Cooper the bass, Thomas Alforque on trumpet, Wendell Kelly caresses the trombone and Danny King sits up front on the drums.

Janet Pitcher earns praise for her costume selections along with Peter Herman’s outstanding wig choices. Paul Durso is the sound designer and Steven Young keeps the lights on.

Steven Gifford exhibits his distinctive talent by including café tables for the audience in his scenic design. Blake McCarty’s spectacular stage projections adds prewar ambiance, while musical director Lanny Hartley is the right guy for this job.

And then there is director Ken Page whose vision pulls it all together. In this memorable tribute to the distinctive style of America’s iconic swing-man Waller, Page re-visualizes musical theatre. In his salute from the heart to Waller’s short life, Page uses Fats’ own words, “Let’s get this joint jumpin’!” And he does.

San Diego County has many entertaining shows playing around town, some with big casts, yet CCAE has the only show ready to go on tour. With a small cast of only five performers and seven musicians “Ain’t Misbehavin’” proves size doesn’t matter. It is the performance that wins the day.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” goes to the top of my list of all-time favorite shows. It only plays until Oct. 8 on the comfortable small stage at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.

It’s a spectacular show awakening the senses, close to home with lots of free parking at 340 N. Escondido Blvd. T

For tickets, call 800-988-4253 or visit Rated 10 out of 10.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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