Don’t miss Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Omaha Community Playhouse. It’s every bit as wonderful as the international award-winning version of the musical that featured 17-year-old Kathy Tyree back in 1982.
Now Tyree is directing a cast that includes her nephew DJ Tyree (Andre) and Tiffany White-Welchen (Nell) of Beehive fame. As much as DJ’s song-and-dance talents and Tiffany’s vocal magic contributed to the show’s triumph, they didn’t overshadow the other three cast members.
Jus.B (Justin Blackson as Ken) used his mellow baritone to great advantage on ‘’Honeysuckle Rose” and captured the Fats Waller humor with “Your Feet’s Too Big” and “Fat and Greasy.” While Waller’s creative genius dominates this classic musical revue, others such as Hoagy Carmichael collaborated on standards like “Two Sleepy People,” with Jus.B and Leiloni Brewer (Armelia) singing “by dawn’s early light, too much in love to say good night.”
Brewer and Dara Hogan (Charlaine) round out the cast and Jim Boggess leads a seven-man band worthy of the five players on stage. And Ray Mercer, an Omaha native with impressive credits on Broadway, choreographed the show and won stellar performances topped by the stylish DJ Tyree.
Kathy Tyree tipped off the Playhouse about Mercer, a South High grad and a long-running cast member of The Lion King on Broadway as well as a dance teacher. She called Mercer a humble and giving choreographer, but audiences will see his work in the sure and seamless movement that enhances all the music, especially on “The Joint Is Jumpin.”
With one exception in the most powerful production of an otherwise action-packed evening: “What Did I Do (To Be So Black and Blue)?” This time the entire company stands like grim statues to harmonize beautifully on meaningful lyrics described as “a searing treatment of racism.”
Such contrasts fill Ain’t Misbehaving with fast-paced variety, from DJ Tyree doing “The Viper’s Drag” with its “five-foot reefer” or joining Jus.B on “The Ladies Who Sing With the Band,” to Leiloni Brewer promising “When you kiss me, I stay kissed,” and Dara Hogan singing “The Yacht Club Swing” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”
Add anything that Tiffany White-Welchen does all night long, from “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” and “Cash for Your Trash” to “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.” She lands notes that ring with instrumental clarity, and hearing her again brings back regrets if you missed her award-winning treatment of Billy Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
When writing a rave review, one looks for at least a flaw or two to temper the enthusiasm. Instead, I found myself recalling my favorite Playhouse shows over the past four or five decades and asking where this musical ranks.
Conclusion: My all-time favorite dramas are still August: Osage County and M Butterfly, my top musicals are The Secret Garden, Ragtime and Les Miserables, but when it comes to dialogue-free musical revues, this production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ now heads my list.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through June 20 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at the Omaha Community Playhouse, Cass and 69th Streets. Tickets $42 to $50 and $20 for students are available by visiting Ticket Omaha or calling 402.553.0800,