By Chris Lane
By Olivia Flores Alvarez
By Angelica Leicht
By Jef Rouner
By Jef With One F
By Jef With One F
By Marco Torres
Quaint and dated as dinner theater might seem -- those mounds of prime rib and iceberg lettuce are downright scary -- Spero Criezis of The Great Caruso seems positively hell-bent on changing our minds. And with his latest production of Ain't Misbehavin', the Fats Waller Musical Show, he just might succeed. In fact, this slick show filled with glorious Fats Waller tunes -- sung by what surely are five of Houston's most talented vocalists -- is as good a musical as I've seen produced locally in years.
The revue-style show has been making the rounds for eons (even the Pointer Sisters toured a version of it), but that doesn't take away from the soulful heat of such songs as "Black and Blue," or the absolutely luscious nastiness of "Fat and Greasy." When these tunes are sung with such swoony feeling -- Regina Hearne, for example, closes her kittenish eyes and purrs out "Mean to Me" with so much heart it's enough to lift the hair on your head -- you know you've come across something altogether special.
The whole cast is superb. Anthony Boggess-Glover gobbles up this tiny stage with his grand voice and an almost shamanlike ability to bring a song to mesmerizing life. When he snakes down the center of the dining room, taking a hit off a "joint" ("Don't call the cops!" the program urges, "The cigarette in this number is herbal!") and oozing out "The Viper's Drag/The Reefer Song," the whole room glows like an opiate dream. And he sings the wonderful "Your Feet's Too Big" with perfect comic timing and a great big gorgeous tone. Dominique Denman, Kelvin Douglas and Aisha Ussery fill out the cast, and they fill up the room with their terrific voices.
With his finely understated direction, which spins just the right amount of movement and energy for the confining Caruso, Barry Dean allows his singing actors to shine. Likewise, Lydia Alston's terrific musical direction keeps the show moving but slows down during the savory parts.
Prime rib or no, Ain't Misbehavin' makes for delicious theater.
Ainàt Misbehavinàruns indefinitely at The Great Caruso Dinner Theater, 10001 Westheimer, (713)780-4900. $29.95-$34.95 for dinner and play.