This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here
By Gary Wien
originally published: 01/23/2018
The arts community throughout New Jersey has been buzzing with anticipation ever since the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center project was first announced. It will be a facility to rival any in Central New Jersey and one that will be home to many arts organizations.
Unfortunately, that meant George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theatre Company both needed to find accommodations for the season. The former found a temporary home, while Crossroads Theatre Company is producing three shows in three different venues this year.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ takes place during the Harlem Renaissance. Set in a smoky jazz club of the ‘20s and ‘30s, the musical features a cast of five singer-dancers who unroll back-to-back blues, soul and honky-tonk numbers by stride pianist Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller and other composers of the era. In addition to the title tune, the score includes “Black and Blue,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Ladies Who Sing with the Band” and “The Viper’s Drag” (The Reefer Song), the last being De Shields’ mesmerizing reptilian solo, inspired by Eastern dance. TV viewers of the Seventies are likely to recall commercials of the effervescent, late Nell Carter belting “The Joint Is Jumpin’,” the Act One closer.
For Crossroads, this is a return to one of their most popular productions and an excellent opportunity to grow their audience.
The article continues after this ad
“When we closed last season, I came up with my Top Ten list,” explained Marshall Jones III, the artistic director at Crossroads Theatre Company. “It was my tenth year and the list was just my ten most memorable experiences - not necessarily just shows. I didn’t rank it, but one of the shows I was most proud of was our production of Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
Jones knew the company was going to be on the road for the season and began talking with NJPAC. The Victoria Theater has roughly 500 seats to fill, so Jones wanted something big like a musical. He thought about when they last did Ain’t Misbehavin’. It was six years ago. They had previously brought back Fly - a play about the Tuskegee Airmen - in 2016 seven years after it was on stage at Crossroads, so he thought the timing was right.
But he needed André.
André De Shields is a two-time Tony nominee who was in the original cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’. He also directed the acclaimed production at Crossroads back in 2011.
“I wouldn’t have done it without him,” stated Jones. “He is perhaps the most uniquely qualified person on this planet to artistically guide this show. Not only does he understand the show because he was a part of it from beginning to middle to end, but he also has a very keen understanding of the culture of the Harlem Renaissance - including its history and politics. He knows all of those dances and his choreography and specifically addresses certain dances of that time. There’s the “Spank the Baby” and “Cradle and Walk” - he’s incorporating them to not only capture historically that time period, but to also accentuate the songs. No way would I have done this without him.”
The cast includes Johmaalya Adelekan (Ragtime), Rheaume Crenshaw (Groundhog Day), David Samuel (Ruined, Arena Stage), Zurin Villanueva (Mean Girls; Shuffle Along), and Borris York (Holiday Inn; Love Never Dies, US tour). Together they will bring the sounds of jazz to a city that once was one of the great jazz cities in the country. And they will be reviving a show that already has fans excited.
“I’m seeing posts on Facebook and lots of people are saying they saw it in high school or their mothers saw it,” said Jones. “They’re saying they want to bring their kids and things like that. It’s wonderful!”
Ain’t Misbehavin’ features a book by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., and music by various composers and lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. Its name comes from the Fats Waller song of the same name. The original production opened in February 1978 with a cast that included Irene Cara, Nell Carter, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and André DeShields. It was nominated for five Tony Awards and won Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Richard Maltby, Jr.) and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Nell Carter).
It was also turned into a TV movie in 1982.
Jones believes one of the reasons the play remains so popular is the music and the crazy, playful, and rather sexy lyrics.
“At rehearsal yesterday, I’m listening to these lyrics and they kind of drip of sexual innuendo, but that’s the beauty of it,” he explained. “They don’t just come right out and say, ‘drop your panties, I want to grind’ or whatever; there’s a pace to it. There’s a poetry to it. There’s a wink wink, nod nod to it, which is great. You not only have that poetic, double entendre innuendo, but you also have great songs.”
Crossroads Theatre Company performed The Mecca Tales at Middlesex County College in Edison for their first play of the season and will perform Back to the Real literally around the corner from their home in New Brunswick this May. For Ain’t Misbehavin’, the goal is to wow their long-time fans, while gaining more along the way.
“I knew we needed to provide something with commercial appeal,” said Jones. “I’m just not interested in doing a show that’s going to sell tickets, I also want to do a show where the commercial appeal is surpassed by the artistic vision. My hope is to use the power of storytelling and theatre and people’s lives unfolding right in front of your eyes to be able to recognize that we have way more in common than we have our differences.”
Circle Players Presents "After The Revolution" (PISCATAWAY, NJ) -- Circle Players presents After the Revolution by Amy Herzog, weekends from February 1st to February 17th. The production is directed by Alicia Harabin. In the play, Emma Joseph is a bright, hard-working, law school graduate continuing her family’s business of fighting for progressive ideals. Black Box PAC Presents "Significant Other" (TEANECK, NJ) -- Black Box PAC's first main stage show of 2019 is Significant Other by Joshua Harmon. BBPAC is no stranger to Harmon’s work, as one of the first hits at the Black Box Performing Arts Center was Harmon’s hit Bad Jews. Significant Other follows the perpetually single Jordan Berman and his trio of girl friends as they navigate dating, relationships, and supporting those you love. Performances run from January 24 to February 10th.The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition (MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- Which play will be voted Audience Favorite – the romance, the thriller, or the comedy? And which author will take the $500 Judge’s Award?Dreamcatcher Presents World Premiere of "Psychodrama" (SUMMIT, NJ) -- Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre will present the World Premiere of Psychodrama by Montclair playwright Phoebe Farber. This seriocomedy unfolds in a divorce support group where a new leader introduces unorthodox methods that just might work. Psychodrama runs February 14-March 3.Centenary Stage Presents Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy Of The People" (HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso headline Centenary Stage Company’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, February 15 through March 3 in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown, New Jersey. Adapted by John Alan Wyatt and directed by Anne Occhiogrosso, the production will feature Randall Duk Kim as Doctor Thomas Stockmann supported by an acting company of professional and local talent from the tri-state area and Centenary University. The full-scale production marks the culmination of the 2018 Gates Ferry Lecture Series: “What is Truth?”
Emmy-Winning South Oranger, Andre Braugher “I’m Andre Braugher and I’m here at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, SOPAC, rehearsing a new play by Julia Doolittle called ‘Tell Them I’m Still Young.’”Laiona Michelle Talks About "Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical" This might be the right time for Nina Simone—15 years after her death. That’s what Laiona Michelle thinks, and, in a way, Michelle will be testing that idea by bringing the singer-activist to life in a world-premiere musical show at George Street Playhouse.
Michelle wrote the show—“Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical”—and she will appear in the title role at the New Brunswick theater from January 29 through February 24.It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared.
Those are often the most powerful.Rise of the Goatman Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30.
Event calendar Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019
Sorry, no events listed for today. Here are some upcoming events.