By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly
Musical revues are all about spectacle and Portland Center Stage’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ definitely delivers. The set is an enormous 1920’s apartment building that spins revealing several different rooms, the music is energetic, and the actors bring out the emotion of every song. The cast is the strongest part of the production, PCS has brought in some heavy hitters for this show and they deliver the goods.
It’s hard to say much about a musical review, there’s no story to speak of and limited dialogue, it’s just a series of musical numbers. In this case a series of Fats Waller songs. Director Chris Coleman has fleshed out the production a bit. The cast is expanded and the actors wear period costume, making it a little more like a traditional musical. When the actors move through the set as it spins, it creates brief moments of continuity. But there are no characters to grab onto and the continuity never gains much traction. The production is a bit more like a montage than a concert.
During “Honeysuckle Rose” Coleman gives the production a modern twist with a same-sex couple, but it’s hard to escape the time and place of the era. This is most prevalent during the number “Find Out What They Like”, which implores women to:
Give them what they want, and when they want it, without a single word to say.
It’s best not to think much about the problematic aspects of it because a musical revue isn’t meant to challenge audiences. It’s meant to sell tickets. The audience is just supposed to sit back, relax, and enjoy the stellar performances.
During this production, alcoholic beverages are for sale in the lobby and can be brought in the theatre to increase your enjoyment. A glass of wine was pretty pricey so you might as well get a cocktail instead. Enjoy your theatre responsibly.
Ain’t Misbehaving is at Portland Center Stage through November 29.