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Ain't Misbehavin'

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Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz, and originally directed by Maltby, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a vivacious musical revue that pays homage to the African-American musicians of the 1920s and 30s who comprised part of what is now referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. In legendary venues such as the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom, artists such as Thomas “Fats” Waller made their indelible mark on American culture. In fact, the show’s title, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is borrowed from one of Waller’s popular song headings.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ made its debut on February 8, 1978 at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s 73rd Street Cabaret. It moved on to Broadway two months later, winning the Tony Award  for Best Musical, and playing for a total of 1,604 performances at three different auditoriums on the Great White Way, closing-out at the storied Belasco Theatre on February 21, 1982.

Now, Long Beach’s dependable International City Theatre is mounting a proud production, and it is a joyful trip back to the days when nightlife and naughtiness had as its soundtrack some of the most jubilant sounds of the 20th century. Under Saundra McClain’s crisp direction, Stephen Semien’s inventive choreography, along with Rahn Coleman’s indispensible musical direction, five extraordinary performers (along with five finely-tuned musicians) offer-up over 30 song and dance routines that are contagious in their evocative ebullience.

Although Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a revue, not a linear piece of musical theater, it nonetheless is a striking showcase for this quintuplet of talented triple-threats. Philip Brandon is huge and delightful in his basso/baritone renditions of such ditties as "Your Feet’s Too Big" or, even, in tender tunes like "I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." Lacy Darryl Phillips intoxicates theatergoers with his interpretation of "The Reefer Song." Moreover, when Brandon and Phillips team up on "Fat and Greasy," it sizzles with intentionally ham-handed humor.

Three ladies add the artistic counterweight to the men’s strong performances. Niketa Calame’s turn with "Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now" allows her to distinguish herself among this group of accomplished players. Likewise, Amber Mercomes ably belts out "Squeeze Me" and "When the Nylons Bloom Again."  But the creamy center of this sweet and sexy effort is the luscious Jennifer Shelton. Her sensual vocalization of "Mean to Me" and her seductive "Cash for Your Trash" are hard to forget and heavenly to recall.

Much credit also goes to scenic designer John Iacovelli, costumer-maker Kim DeShazo, sound-maven Paul Fabre, and lighting-master Ben Pilat for their crafty contributions to this stirring endeavor. At just over two-hours running time, this show is over all too soon.

Ain’t Misbehaving’ continues at the International City Theatre —300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach – through November 4. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Matinees are on Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservation, dial (562) 436 – 4610. For online ticketing and further information, visit  www.ictlongbeach.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.