The joint is certainly jumpin' at Stage 773. Porchlight's rollicking production of the "Fats" Waller revue, Ain't Misbehavin', playing through March 9, is the kind of show that offers enough heat and harmony to melt through the layers of ice that have crystallized Chicago.
This isn't the shiny, slick production of this oft-produced musical revue you're probably used to (and which played Goodman Theatre in 2008). This cast and creative team, led by director/choreographer Brenda Didier, celebrates the working-class spirit of Waller's tunes. There is no fourth wall. This is a boozy, after hours party, and we're all invited.
Credit must be given to the ensemble cast and musicians who do Waller more than proud. As the visual stand-in for Waller, Lorenzo Rush Jr. is a clear crowd favorite. Possessing a powerful, soulful voice, Rush Jr. hits home Waller's spirited and sassy lyrics with a large dose of mischief. Robin DaSilva has big shoes to fill, playing a role that put Nell Carter on the map and Chicago theatre fans associate with the likes of E. Faye Butler. But the full-voiced DaSilva equips herself well, setting aside the sass to find the heart in the heartbreaking "Mean to Me." The cat-like Donterrio Johnson gives us true showmanship, and Sharriese Hamilton and Lina Wass provide balance between the experienced diva and the youthful showgal, respectively.
Yet, the music is the true star of this sung-through evening, and music director Jaret Landon ensures precise delivery of Waller's tight harmonies and wit-filled lyrics. As delivered by the rip-roaring ensemble led by band leader Austin Cook, this is a show that will inspire even the stoniest of souls to clap along.
"Ain't Misbehavin' plays through March 9 at Stage 773.
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