By Tina-Renee Johnson The Community News
The joint was jumpin' -- Cotton Club style.
Flappers, preachers, and hardworking "honest" people drank, partied and sang to the music of Fats Waller in `Ain't Misbehavin," the musical based on the 1929 hit song.
The stage at Hine Junior High School auditorium in Southeast was transformed into a nightclub in the 1920s complete with a live band, a bar, packed tables and a platform for "performers."
Set against the era of the Harlem musical renaissance, one could almost imagine Cab Calloway or Waller himself on that stage, encouraging club patrons to sing along or eagerly spend a week's paycheck on another bottle of bootleg liquor.
But instead the audience was treated to performances by a multicultural cast that resurrected the spirit of the Harlem renaissance as if they had been there themselves.
Presented by the Theater Alliance of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, an arts organization whose mission is to bind the diverse metropolitan community through meaningful, high quality theatrical productions, the sometimes rambunctious, sometimes waltzy show was really two in one.
The first act focused on the performers doing what they do best.
Taking the stage as if she was at the famous Apollo Theater, Heidi Martin wooed the male club patrons with her soul wrenching rendition of "Honeysuckle Rose."
Martin's big voice took the audience by surprise causing a few people to jerk their heads in shock and yell "Sing it girl!"
The diversity in swing music was demonstrated during Yvette Spears' performance of "When the Nylons Bloom Again," in which she sounded eerily like opera diva Jessye Norman, and the energetic Nancy Salcedo who showcased her octave range and a lot of leg.
Memorable performances also came from the Theater Alliance's youth ensemble. Portraying a group of youngsters sneaking into the club before it opened, the kids provided great comic relief with their own mini-cabaret.
Ben Turner's innocent rendition of "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," was reminiscent of a "Little Rascals" character.
The not quite mature voices of the youth showed promise during "Honeysuckle Rose Band," in which the kids imitated instruments with their voices.
During the second part of the show, the attention shifted from the performers to the club patrons. A preacher, estranged husbands and wives, and men and women searching for each other, make up the potpourri of characters.
Their lives are displayed through song and dance including "T'Ain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do."
As the women shimmied their way on the dance floor, Ben Morgan and Yvette Manson comically portrayed a wife who wanted to enjoy an evening at the club and a husband who enjoyed himself too much once he got there.
Audience memhers whooped in support as Manson sang "That Ain't Right" to her unfaithful husband.
The troupe's strong voices and creativity not only introduced an often overlooked and neglected musical era, but it also revealed a lot about the people who lived during that time.
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