Dimitriou's Jazz Alley has been a Seattle institution since 1979, bringing jazz greats and newcomers alike to perform in its sophisticated atmosphere. The stage at Jazz Alley is small (and for now, festively decorated with greens), with just enough room for a piano, drum set, bass and trumpet player, plus a few square feet for the singers to strut their stuff. Tables for two or more spread out on the main floor and the mezzanine above, all lit by candlelight, while waiters glide through the room, serving food and drink without disturbing one's enjoyment of the performance.
On Tuesday night, that performance was Ain't Misbehavin', a famous Broadway musical which won several Tonys, including that for Best Musical, when it debuted in 1987. The show is a revue of thirty songs by Thomas “Fats” Waller and others, ranging from toe tapping swing numbers to soulful blues ballads. This cast shifts easily from one to the next, with clean transitions and well-rehearsed, showy patter; all five of the singers are natural performers.
For this show, they want that talent to extend beyond the stage—audience participation became a large part of the festivities. It began simply, when A. Curtis Farrow began talking directly to the audience, and when greeted with cautious laughter, warned us, “Oh yes, we're breaking the fourth wall tonight!” This included, soon after, bringing a woman on stage to serenade her, or bringing three men (well, two men and a small boy) on to sing that their “feet too big;” or such simple things as getting the audience to clap along (slightly harder that night, when people were both tentative and eating dinner).
Every one of the five singers had voices worthy of the careers they had in Broadway history; many of them have been in original musicals, won awards, and toured the country or the world, and deservedly so. The cast were mostly older, and in the first act some songs, particularly ones about partying on the town or searching for a girl or boy, would have been more appropriate performed by a younger singer. By the second act, however, that discrepancy was not noticeable. Sandra Bonitto, by far the youngest of the cast, was particularly good at the quick pattering songs, such as “Handful of Keys,” and humorous additions, while M. Martine Allard and Vivian Jett both let loose with slower songs that showed off their vocal styles. Ron Lucas' talents were showcased in “The Viper Drag,” in which he sang about getting high, while pretending to get high, and still singing well. A mention should also be made of the musicians (three of whom are local), who had equal talent and showmanship, and were impressive in their own right.
Ain't Misbehavin' runs until December 23rd; for more information and tickets, please visit www.jazzalley.com.
Review by Lia Morgan & Roy Oros