ORLANDO — The joint is hopping inside the Margeson Theatre at Orlando Shakes, where their new production, Ain’t Misbehavin’, takes a nostalgic swing back to the Cotton Club scene of the Harlem section of New York City. This musical revue has a fantastic cast of singers who bring old Jazz and blues classics vibrantly to life, but what’s equally impressive about the show is its high energy level: the choreography by James Tuuao may be the most exciting aspect of the show, which frequently moves with the speed of lightning.

Throughout this 2-hour long musical revue, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” energetically pays loving tribute to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and ’30s, and more than 30 songs from that era brought to life by five exceptionally talented cast members. Suddenly we truly are in the nightclub scene of a much earlier era.

What is the Musical Ain’t MisBehavin’?

Ain’t Misbehavin’ opened in the Manhattan Theatre Club on Feb. 8, 1978 (with a cast that included Irene Cara and Nell Carter). Created by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., it harkens back to the black musicians who became an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance, when Manhattan nightclubs like the Cotton Club attracted huge crowds.

Yes, it’s a wonderfully conceived nostalgia piece, and one that pays tribute to the songs of Fats Waller, the legendary Jazz pianist and songwriter, whose compositions “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose” remain absolute classics of that era.

Great songs, but Orlando Shakes aims to elevate this production through some first-rate casting. This production is particularly juicy because the performers are sassy, have ‘tude to spare, and wow can they dance up a storm. They take songs that are catchy and toe-tapping fun and deliver renditions that will leave you feeling emotionally entranced.

Even more exciting is that choreography, which doesn’t just give us some real show-stopper moments, but also brings plenty of humor to the production. As I said, no matter where you’re sitting in the theater, you’re likely to feel like you really are in a 1920s Cotton Club, where five skillful entertainers are out to raise the roof.

Who Performs in Ain’t Misbehavin’?

It’s appropriate that the first act concludes with the song “The Joint Is Jumpin'” because that couldn’t be more true. Excellent casting went a long way toward guaranteeing this show was a success. Three women — Dayja Le’Chelle, Bethany Hemmans and Yara Justina Williams — and two men — Shane Bland and Quentin Avery Brown — deliver two sensational hours that showcase their considerable gift for singing and zestful dance moves.

Bland is particularly good at demonstrating his comedic skills, especially in one of the show’s highlights, “The Viper’s Drag.” This jazzy Waller tune explores the wink-wink notion that “If your throat gets dry, you know you’re high, everything is dandy … Truck on down to the candy store.” Yes, it’s that candy store. In Bland’s hilarious interactions with the audience, he dangles his own rolled reefer with the tease “You can’t have it.”

Brown has his own highlight singing the comical “Your Feet’s Too Big,” which uses snappy insults in a deliciously comical way. The two men have a rollicking good time performing “Fat & Greasy,” where they crack jokes about a man who is “too darn lazy to reach down and tie his shoe.”

All five are stunning vocalists and a pure joy to watch, expert at charming us with the nuances in their expressions, those small but meaningful gestures, and the ability to project attitude with a nod and a smile. The entire cast clicks from the opening theme song and they work beautifully together.

The songs are also fascinating to hear because of their unique range. If you listen to the lyrics, you can hear sadness, pain, passion, joy, excitement and humor in equal measure. The early blues and jazz singers and songwriters knew how to connect with the emotions of their audience — and so does this grand Orlando Shakes production.

Kudos as well to the Orlando Shakes costume designers for some spectacular outfits.

Where can I See Ain’t Misbehavin’?

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is being performed at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, 812 E. Rollins St. in Loch Haven Park, now through April 28. Call the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 for tickets or more information. The show is an hour and 50 minutes long, with a 15-minute intermission.

A special drink, the Harlem Sunset (Blood orange juice, bourbon and sour mix) is being sold during the show at the Orlando Shakes Bar.

There will be a special Post-Show Talkback on Sunday April 21 at 2 p.m., and a Black Renaissance Night on Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m., the Shakes is hosting an ASL Interpreted performance.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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