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February 6, 2013

Theater troupe to stage 'Ain't Misbehavin' ' at Ace's

JOHNSTOWN — Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company will be taking a show uptown as it celebrates Black History Month with a razzle-dazzle production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

The musical revue, with music by Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, is a fluid lineup of song and dance numbers ranging from swing to jitterbug.

The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14-16 and 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown, during Valentine’s Day weekend.

Named after the song by Waller, “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” serves as a tribute to African-American musicians of the 1920s and ’30s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing creativity, cultural awareness and ethnic pride.

Waller was known as Mr. Harlem and was a key player in the birth of jazz during the Harlem Renaissance.

“The music is phenomenal,” said Doug Meagher, Band of Brothers board member and show director. “The songs reflect the spirit of that time, and the show moves quickly from one musical number to the next.”

He explained how the songs deal with many issues of the day, including the Great Depression and racial issues, particularly in the dramatic and beautiful song “Black and Blue.”

Five local actors, Jeffrey Webb, Tony Malvoisin, Venus Hall, Katrina Bodenschatz and Kim King, will present an evening of rowdy and humorous songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

Laura Gordon, Band of Brothers artistic director, said the show has been brought back by popular demand.

“When we presented the show in 2012, we had five sold-out performances,” Gordon said. “The show, with its array of hit songs and dance numbers, will take the audience back to the 1920s and ’30s on a musical time machine.”

Attendees have the option of having dinner before the show at 6:30 p.m. with the purchase of a $25 dinner-show ticket.

Dinner will not be available for the Feb. 16 matinee performance.

Show-only tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors, students and military members.

Gordon said Ace’s is an ideal venue for this production.

“Ace’s will be actually part of the set since the musical production has a nightclub feel,” she said.

The 1920s and ’30s were a time when Manhattan nightclubs like the Cotton Club and Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society, and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out the new beat known as swing.

Local talent also comprises the orchestra, which features Terry Osman on piano; Rick Auvil, bass; Mike Vatavuk, drums; Larry McGiboney, trumpet; Bryan Anton, trombone; Dave Jeckavitch, alto sax and clarinet; and Jennifer Shuty, tenor sax and clarinet.

Waller, the outrageously prodigious comic and musical soul of 1930s Harlem, lives on in this rollicking, finger-snapping show that is considered to be one of Broadway’s most well-crafted revues.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” launched the career of the late Nell Carter and won the 1978 Tony Awards for best musical and best performance by a featured actress.

Gordon said the five voices are a perfect fit for the musical.

“It really is a showcase for the wealth of local talent,” Gordon said. “I can honestly say that these performers rival even those with the national touring company of this production.”

Some people may question a Shakespearean theater com-pany producing a big-budget Broadway salute.

Gordon has no such qualms.

“If we break even, I would be happy,” Gordon said. “We get to mark Black History Month with a celebration of spirit because that’s what art is.”

She guaranteed that the musical journey will have people tapping their toes in their seats.

The musical program will feature solos, duets and ensemble numbers with such classic hits as “Honeysuckle Rose,” “This Joint Is Jumpin’,” “Your Feet’s Too Big” and the title song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

The cast is presenting other electrifying songs, including “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling,” “Cash For Your Trash,” “Find Out What They Like” and “Mean to Me.”

Tickets are available at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St., or reserved by phone at 536-4176.

Tickets also are available at Mr. Muffler, 1022 Scalp Ave. in Richland Township.

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