Bridge Players "Ain't Misbehavin'" with Fats Waller Musical Revue
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is many things. It’s a musical revue. It’s a story told in song. It’s loosely biographical and selectively historical. The show, which is based on the songs of Thomas “Fats” Waller and others composers of the time, brings to light the musical heart and soul of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s.
And, beginning this Friday, February 5, you can see “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at the Bridge Players Theatre Company in Burlington.
Well, that is, you can see it on Friday and Saturday the first weekend, but the third show of the run, on Sunday, February 7, is completely sold out.
And, Carla Ezell, who is co-directing “Ain’t Misbehavin’”with Diana Dohrmann, told me, the performance on Sunday, February 14, is “not far behind.”
“We are so happy that people are choosing this show as something to do on Valentine’s Day,” Ezell said.
“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” while far-from-obscure, seemed to me to be a somewhat unexpected choice for a community theatre group, and I asked Ezell how it made its way into the Bridge Players’ season.
“It was our co-director, Diana Dohrmann’s idea,” Ezell said.
“I had done the show with my high school students," said Dohrmann, "and I loved it. The music is phenomenal and it tells a wonderful story.”
Ezell added to that. “Each song is its own unique piece, and they all have such depth,” she said.
She pointed to the second to last song in the show, “Black and Blue,” as an example-- “I'm so forlorn, Life's just a thorn, My heart is torn, Why was I born? What did I do to be so, Black and blue?”
“The music just takes you along for the entire journey.”
After hearing all this, I couldn’t help but think that a production that relies so heavily on singing and dancing -- there are more than 30 songs in the show -- could be a real challenge to cast. So I asked about that.
Ezell chuckled. “We initially thought it might be hard to get the talent,” she said, “but that was not the case.”
In fact, although the show calls for a cast of five performers, Ezell and Dohrmann ended up selecting eight.
“Every one of our cast members brings something new and fresh to this,” Ezell told me. “And each of them vocally blew us away.”
“We just never expected to have such a rich cast,” Ezell said. “It all just came together.”
Not only did the actors gel quickly as a performing group, they also seemed to have an immediate personal connection.
“The cast really bonded,” Ezell said. “Even at the auditions, there was electricity among them.”
Dohrmann echoed Ezell’s observations. “They work really well together,” she said. “They help each other.”
In addition to this closeness and rapport being a personal benefit to the actors, it goes a long way toward making for a cohesive show.
When the directors want to try something different, the cast is right there. “The actors understand what certain things mean to us (the directors),” Ezell explains. “It’s like the show belongs to all of us.”
Both of the co-directors are incredibly excited for the production to begin this weekend.
“This is going to be such a fantastic show,” Ezell said. “All of the people involved, both onstage and off, are amazing.”
“’Ain’t Misbehavin’’ is such a beautiful story,” she said, “and we are telling it in this unique way.”
Bridge Players Theatre Company's “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is on stage at February 5- 7, 12-14 and 19-20. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and include coffee and dessert at intermission!
For tickets or information, visit www.bridgeplayerstheatre.com or call 856-303-7620. Performances are held at Broad Street United Methodist Church, 36 E. Broad Street, Burlington, NJ 08016.
You can meet the “Ain’t Misbehavin’”cast on the Bridge Players Facebook page. The cast includes Brandon Dennis, Alexandra Haas, Carol Jones, Wanda Mychele Jordan, Nikema Missouri, Donald C. Robbins, Sr., Gwen Ricks Spencer and Darryl Thompson, Jr.
Also, during the run of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” artwork from local artist Don Stephens will be on display.