Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Ain’t Misbehavin’ review at Mercury Theatre, Colchester – ‘a lively musical revival’

Wayne Robinson and Carly Mercedes Dyer in Aint Misbehavin' at Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Photo: Pamela Raith
by -

Compiled in 1978, prototype jukebox musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a big-hearted breeze through the music of pioneering jazz pianist Fats Waller.

Making his directorial debut, actor Tyrone Huntley succeeds in infusing at least a hint of narrative into the dense but disconnected playlist that makes up the show. Implied stories of romantic and professional jealousies develop through lingering touches, fuming glances, and breezy, mid-song bickering.

Building recognisable personalities from their barely-defined characters, the cast are sassy and charismatic, their interactions warm and lively. Wayne Robinson seethes and giggles through a cloud of dope smoke on sultry number Viper’s Drag, while Carly Mercedes Dyer shows off a knack for comedy, squeaking and scrambling about the space, frenetically miming through the daft Yacht Club Swing.

The show’s downbeat highlight, though, is a subtle but impactful take on Black and Blue, touching lightly on the unspoken omnipresence of racial prejudice in a measured, moody flow of cascading harmonies.

Oti Mabuse’s impeccably crisp choreography riffs on the dance styles of the period, featuring jitterbugs and jives punctuated by skips, sidelong leaps, and weightless mid-air spins.

The tight band, led from the piano by Alex Cockle, put plenty of heat under their numbers, but never get an opportunity to cut loose with solos. They’re seated throughout in a striking, steeply-raked bandstand conceived by designer Takis, a brightly lit golden bullseye that captures the threadbare glitz and reckless cheer of the era in an ostentatious blitz of burnished copper foil.

Dancer Oti Mabuse: ‘I’m bringing everything I’ve learned from Strictly to the rehearsal room’

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Light but lively revival that reflects the energy of the Harlem Renaissance jazz scene