{mosimage}They’ll be puttin’ on the ritz at the Temple Theatre in Sanford, May 29 through June 22, as a production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ comes to town.
The musical, first performed in 1978, features the songs of jazz great Fats Waller. The musical also has been a stepping stone for such major performers as Nell Carter, Irene Cara and Debbie Allen.
Waller reached his fame in the ‘20s and ‘30s and is perhaps best known for two songs that are featured in the musical — title track Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose.
The musical has a cast of five actors and a seven-piece band. It has won many honors, including Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Choreography and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Nell Carter).
Peggy Taphorn, artistic director for the Temple Theatre, says the production has been in the works for months, featuring some nationally known talent behind the scenes.
“It’s going to be a great show because we have great people working on it,” said Taphorn. “We have a great director in Ray Kennedy, a great cast and our musical director Jan Powell is awesome.”
Powell, who has been the Temple Theatre’s musical director for a year, says Ain’t Misbehavin’ is one of the most technically difficult projects he has worked on in his 40-year career in the theater ... mainly because of the musical proficiency of Waller.
“It’s really, really hard,” said Powell. “Fats Waller was a great, great musician — a classically trained musician who sort of fell into jazz.
“This is the first time I’ve worked on a production of this musical,” said Powell, “but from the first time I saw it I wanted to be a part of it.”
Powell is playing the piano himself. Other instruments in the band include drums, bass and a horn section.
He has praise for both the theater and the young cast.
“I love the Temple,” said Powell. “I think it’s one of the great, undiscovered gems in North Carolina. Despite seating more than 300 people, it still has an intimate feel.
“And this cast is so good,” added Powell. “They’re extremely young, but they all sing and dance very, very well.”
The five members of the cast are Christopher Berry, who plays Ken; Terren Wooten, who plays Andre; Brittany Carrie as Armelia; Cindy Hespedales as Charlane; and the role of Nell is performed by Mitzi Greshawn Smith.
Berry, who is a recent graduate of North Carolina A&T, has an impressive background in theater, having participated in productions of Smoky Joe’s Cafe, A Christmas Carol, Raisin in the Sun and Dreamgirls. However, he says he is as excited about performing in Ain’t Misbehavin’ as any other musical he’s been involved in.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Berry. “The director, Ray Kennedy, has an excellent reputation in the theater world, and the rest of the cast is awesome.”
Berry, a native of Westbury, N.Y., has never performed at the Temple Theatre, but he’s looking forward to his run in Sanford.
“I think the people are really in for a great show,” said Berry. “The music and choreography of Ain’t Misbehavin’ just fits together so well. It’s been a lot of fun working on it.”
The performance schedule is 2 and 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 29; 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Sunday. The production runs through June 22 and tickets are $16 and $20. There will be a dress rehearsal on May 28 that is open to the public for $5 per person.
“We’re hoping to get people who have never been to a musical interested in the theater with the dress rehearsal,” said Taphorn, “and get the folks who go to the dress rehearsal to come back for the real thing.”   

Contact Tim Wilkins at: tim@upandcomingweekly.com    

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