Five terrifically talented singers, a virtuoso piano player, and a sensational 
onstage band combine forces with the music of Fats Waller to get the joint (i.e. 
the Thousand Oaks Civics Arts Plaza) jumpin’ in Ain’t Misbehavin’, the 
Southland’s first CLO production of 2008.  If this show is any indication, this looks 
to be the start of a fantastic year of musical theater for Angelenos.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is the ideal CLO “fourth show,” the kind of production 
requiring a small cast and simple set design which fits perfectly between the 
big cast/big budget items which are a CLO’s big draw.  Though the show’s 
budget may be a fraction of, say, the upcoming Jekyll & Hyde, Ain’t 
Misbehavin’ doesn’t stint on entertainment value.  

To start with, there’s the music of Fats Waller, which remains vital despite being 
seven or eight decades old.  In addition to the title song, there’s “Honeysuckle 
Rose,” “The Joint Is Jumpin’,” “Mean to Me,” a couple of laugh getting sing-
alongs: “Your Feet’s Too Big” and “Fat and Greasy,” and numerous other 
applause-getters.  As a performer, Waller also recorded “I’m Gonna Sit Right 
Down And Write Myself A Letter,” “Two Sleepy People,” and “I Can’t Give You 
Everything But Love,” which comprise Ain’t Misbehavin”s wow of a finale.

Secondly, there’s the übertalented cast, comprised of Anthony Manough, 
Arthur L. Ross, Pam Trotter, Natalie Wachen, and Melissa Youngblood 
recreating roles originated on Broadway by Andre DeShields, Ken Page, 
Armelia McQueen, Charlaine Woodard, and Nell Carter. Director Ken Page 
(yes, the Ken Page, star of the original production!) has cast each role to 
match the “type” of the original performer, Youngblood especially being a 
ringer for the late Miss Carter.

Finally, there’s musical director Darryl Archibald making musical magic on the 
downstage honkytonk piano, backed upstage by six of the best musicians 
around: Darryl Tanikawa on alto sax and clarinet, Gary Rautenberg on tenor 
sax and clairnet, Stan Hernacki on trumpet, John R. Smith on double bass, 
Dave Lofti on drums, and last but not least June Satton on trombone. (Boy 
can this lady play the trombone!)

Hard as it is to make a “best of” list, here are some the highlights of this evening 
of pure entertainment:

•        Manough and Wachen being flirtatious in the swinging “How Ya Baby?” 
(How’s about a little dance?) …

•        Ross and Trotter, under a huge mirror ball, singing and dancing to the 
“Jitterbug Waltz,” while downstage a “fatigued” Youngblood removes her 
shoes and massages her sore feet …

•        Manough and Ross introducing “The Ladies Who Sing With The Band”: 
Wachen singing “Yacht Club Swing” deliberately (and adorably) off-tune in a 
voice that (thanks to sound designer Jonathan Burke) literally shatters glass; 
dowageresque Trotter in the pseudo-operatic “When The Nylons Bloom 
Again;” and a charming Youngblood “shyly” pretending it’s her “first time on 
any stage” giving musical advice with “Cash For Your Trash” …  

•        Everyone jitterbuggin’ to “The Joint Is Jumpin’” so “jumpin’ly” that a 
police siren ends Act 1 …

•        The three ladies proudly showing off their wide-brimmed chapeaux, 
spangles, and furs in “Lounging At The Waldorf …

•        “High Time,” with Manough in a dimly lit speakeasy dreaming about a 
“reefer five feet long,” seemingly getting higher and higher on an herbal 
cigarette, and even offering puffs to the audience …

•        Manough and Ross getting the audience to join in on the chorus of the 
outrageous “Fat And Greasy” (pronounce that last word with a “z”) …

•        All five stars plus piano harmonizing on the mournful (What Did I Do To Be 
So) “Black And Blue” …

•        And finally, the fabulous medley of songs which Waller recorded but did 
not write.

The cast is, in a word, splendid:  Fats Walleresque Ross getting laughs galore 
with “Your Feet’s Too Big,” Nell Carter look-and-sound-alike Youngblood 
warbling the torchy “Mean To Me” with a simple piano accompaniment, sexy 
Manough duetting with powerhouse Trotter in the bluesy “That Ain’t Right,” 
and gorgeous dazzler Wachen, a star on the rise, singing the dickens out of 
“Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now.”

Director Page stages each number with imagination and flair, with Marvin 
Thornton’s choreography evoking the finger-waggin’ jitterbug and swing of 
the twenties and thirties. Steven Young’s colorful, mood-setting lighting, 
Christine Gibson’s richly tailored costumes, and the simple but effective 
uncredited set design are all first rate.

Though my personal preference would for a “book” musical, like Cabrillo’s 
previous Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, and though Fats Waller’s music is not 
something I’d ordinarily listen to, I thoroughly enjoyed Ain’t Misbehavin’, and 
was more than glad to join the audience in giving the performers a standing 
ovation as the band played one last reprise of the title song.

Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks, Civic Arts Plaza, Countrywide Performing Arts 
Center, 2100 Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Thousand Oaks.

–Steven Stanley
January 5, 2008
Photos: Ed Krieger

Comments are closed.