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  • REVIEW | Ain’t Misbehavin’ | Southwark Playhouse
Adrian Hansel, Renee Lamb, Carly Mercedes Dyer in Ain't Misbehavin. Photo credit: Pamela Raith

REVIEW | Ain’t Misbehavin’ | Southwark Playhouse

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is musical extravaganza that celebrates the music of Fats Waller the American jazz musician.

The Southwark Playhouse is transported back in time as the audience are invited into a musical revue of Waller’s hits through punchy live music and striking choreography. Paul Taylor Mills’ latest venture is 110 minutes of boundless energy and toe-tapping jazz music.

Known for his lovable, roguish stage personality, Fats Waller was a pioneer in modern jazz and renowned for his remarkable talent and catalogue of hit songs such as Squeeze Me, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Blue Turning Grey Over You and Jitterbug Waltz. He’s a legend in his own right and propelling his music into this 21st century production is the perfect way to whisk away the blues.

Adrian Hansel, Renee Lamb, Carly Mercedes Dyer in Ain't Misbehavin. Photo credit: Pamela Raith
Adrian Hansel, Renee Lamb, Carly Mercedes Dyer in Ain’t Misbehavin. Photo credit: Pamela Raith

Tyrone Huntley makes his directorial debut in this production alongside Strictly’s own Oti Mabuse, who is known on the show for her ambitious choreography. They make an excellent pair as this show isn’t short of personality and pizzazz. Whilst it isn’t an autobiographical piece, nor have a narrative, it really works. We are introduced to the diversity of Fats Waller’s music through the immensely talented cast that tackle the huge belting numbers, slick harmonies and fiery dance moves.

Adrian Hansel and Wayne Robinson ooze charisma as the two male singers in the show opposite Carly Mercedes Dyer, Landi Oshinowo and Renée Lamb who bring sass and soul to their performances. It’s brilliant how Huntley has created these distinct personalities and characters without a narrative. Whether it’s Lamb’s fierce stage presence, Dyer’s expressive wit or Landi’s charm, we warm to each singer and connect with their performance as they switch from the more emotionally charged numbers to the high-energy hits.  

Oti Mabuse’s phenomenal choreography is no secret, but with this being her musical theatre debut as a choreographer, there is no doubt she is heading straight to the West End. Her movement is electric and bursting with flavour, she works the cast hard but it really pays off. Mabuse’s choreography is sublimely timely and captures the era with her signature flair.

The cast’s limitless energy performing Mabuse’s choreography is exhausting to watch, but the way they pair that with their jaw-dropping vocals is what really showcases their extraordinary talent.

Yes, it’s probably more style over substance, but what it lacks in depth it gains in atmosphere as the talent of this cast create a real party. Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a real delight and a truly joyous night of escapism that will whack a huge smile on your face and have you dancing all the way home.

★★★★

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is on at the Southwark Playhouse until the 1st of June. Don’t forget to check out SeatPlan for all the best deals on theatre tickets and see the view from your seat before you book.

Photo credit // Pamela Raith

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