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Curtain Rises: Civic Theatre of Allentown to swing with “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

Civic Theatre of Allentown stages a musical tribute to jazz musician Thomas “Fats” Waller with “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” Feb. 23 through March 10, Nineteenth Street Theatre, Allentown.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a musical revue with a book by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr., and music by various composers and lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. The show is named after the song by Fats Waller (with Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf), “Ain’t Misbehavin.’”

The musical celebrates Waller’s and other composers’ music written during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. It was a time when Manhattan nightclubs such as the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out the new beat known as Swing music.

The show opened on Broadway in 1978 and was nominated for four Tony Awards, winning two Tonys, including for Best Musical.

“Audiences can expect this production of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ to be a 2024 re-imagining of this classic jazz musical,” says director and choreographer Gabe Moses.

“While honoring the Harlem Renaissance, our production will take onlookers into a time capsule back to a 1930s’ nightclub to unravel a series of vignettes told through song and dance by a sea of zany characters,” Moses says.

Five performers will present an evening of sassy, sultry and humorous songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

The performers are Deborah D’Haiti, Andrew Stewart, Keith M. Miller Sr., Veronica Cummings and Juanita Renay Gray.

Musical direction is by Todd Deen.

“As a tribute to jazz musician Fats Waller, ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ encapsulates Waller’s humorous and dark perspectives of his world,” Moses says, adding, “This production promises to be an upbeat homage to an era that set forth jazz and swing music for the artists of today.”

The show’s more than 30 songs include standards such as “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “The Joint is Jumpin,’” “Your Feet’s Too Big,” “That Ain’t Right,” “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.”

Moses is an actor and director who strives to use his platforms to amplify black and brown voices. He has acted at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Crazy for You” and “Ragtime.” He previously directed “Trouble in Mind” at Civic Theatre.

Civic Theatre has a “Pay What You Can” performance March 7.

“Ain’t Misbehavin,’” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23, 24, 28, March 1, 2, 7, 8, 9; 2 p.m. Feb. 25, March 3, 10, Civic Theatre of Allentown, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown. Tickets: box office; 610-432-8943; https://civictheatre.com/

Staged reading:

Between the Lines Studio Theatre presents a staged reading of “Holy Orders” by Susan E. Sneeringer at 4 p.m. Feb. 24 in the theater at 725 N. 15th St., Allentown.

In the script, Sister Margaret Delaney is suspended from her religious duties for stepping in to say the Mass for a poor, under-served parish. She heads for a safe harbor in the home of her brother, Steve, to think things over and decide whether she can continue to serve as before, or claim her true vocation.

The reading is directed by Randall Forte.

Seating is general admission. Light refreshments will be served.

Sneeringer, who lives in Allentown and grew up in Reading, recently had her play, “Grave Concerns,” performed by Reading Theater Project. Sneeringer recently performed in Between the Lines Studio Theatre’s production of “Sweat,” Lynn Nottage’s award-winning play set in Reading.

“Holy Orders,” 4 p.m. Feb. 24, Between the Lines Studio Theatre, 725 N. 15th St., Allentown. https://betweenthelinestheatre.com/

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

Gabe Mose