|Robin Long, Lovely Hoffman, Davron S. Monroe, Lori Tishfield, and Calvin Braxton in Ain't Misbehavin'. Photo: Mark S. Howard.|
Still, what can I say; the cast is talented, and of course the material is great - Waller aficionados won't be satisfied with this version, but I think virgins will find it fun. And the band is tight, the musical direction strong, and the cast is well-trained - they manage an exquisite five-part harmony, for instance, even though they're spread across the stage, in the mournful Black and Blue (at top) - probably this production's highlight. There are other good moments, too - the show seems to warm up (and loosen up) as it goes along. Lovely Hoffman, who's most often at home in the material, brings a genuine broken heart to Mean to Me, for instance, and the versatile Davron S. Monroe slinks sleazily, if somewhat calculatedly, through The Viper's Drag/The Reefer Song. And Robin Long brings a witty edge to Squeeze Me, while Lori Tishfield definitely gives Your Feet's Too Big everything she's got. Meanwhile the effervescent Calvin Braxton does manage to sell every number - just by being a tireless dancer (he's surprisingly light on his feet) and an utterly determined entertainer. Braxton's a bit innocently blank to conjure Fats himself, however - whose arched eyebrows and gleaming eyes always hinted at a brainy, bemused critique of the sated appetites his songs so often celebrated. There's just something too squeaky-clean about Braxton - and about the whole revue, in fact. Which may be why, though often diverting, this show ain't quite Misbehavin.'