Review | ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre

A Toe-Tapping, Sexy Delight of a Musical

Marty Austin Lamar, Angela Wildflower, Connie Jackson, Rogelio Douglas, Jr. and Yvette Cason star in the Rubicon Theatre Company production of “AIN’T MISBEHAVIN,’” directed by Wren T. Brown and now playing at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura | Credit: Loren Haar | Credit: Lore Photography

A joyous celebration of the music of Thomas “Fats” Waller, the Rubicon Theatre Company’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ — set in 1930s Harlem and a three-time Tony Award winner when it debuted on Broadway in 1978 — holds up impressively well. The multi-talented cast — Yvette Cason, Rogelio Douglas Jr., Connie Jackson, Marty Austin Lamar, and Angela Wildflower — do a terrific job of shape-shifting into different characters to perform such classic favorites as the first song ever recorded by Fats Waller, “Ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do,”  “The Joint is Jumpin’,” “Black and Blue,” and the title song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” 

Musical Director William Foster McDaniel and the band, performing live onstage to replicate a nightclub setting, do an excellent job with some challenging music, all the while managing to look like debonair gentlemen of the ’20s and ’30s. 

While some of the show’s lyrics aren’t exactly in tune with the times (a prime example is the 1929 song “Find Out What They Like,” which urges women to “Give them what they want, and when they want it, without a single word to say / You got to cater to a man and if you don’t, day and night, he’ll find some other gal to do the things you won’t”), the show as a whole is such a high-energy delight that it’s easy to excuse some of its outdated sensibilities. A few of the tunes, “Your Feet’s Too Big” and “The Reefer Song” in particular, are downright hilarious, and the cast is game to milk them for every laugh they can. 

All in all, this is another thoroughly enjoyable production from the Rubicon, a reliably excellent company whose shows are definitely worth the drive. After two musicals (Ain’t Misbehavin’ and the equally stellar In the Heights), next up is the Southern California premiere of a drama, The Realistic Joneses, starring Joe Spano (January 25-February 12), followed by the world premiere of a musical love story, Dark of the Moon (March 29-April 16). Count me in for both! 

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through December 18 at the Rubicon Theatre on 1006 E. Main Street in Ventura; tickets can be purchased here.


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