If you find yourself tapping your feet, singing along and even breaking into a grin during a performance of Ain’t Misbehavin’, look around. You won’t be alone. This is from a determinedly stoic theater critic. But it’s near impossible to resist the music of Fats Waller that’s so synonymous with the Harlem Renaissance, songs such as “Lookin’ Good But Feelin’ Bad,” “Honeysuckle Rose” and “The Joint Is Jumpin’.”
North Coast Repertory Theatre’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, a show that began life back in 1978, is simple, really: five talented performers (Ron Christopher Jones, Cynthia Thomas, Tony Perry, Anise Ritchie and Yvonne) singing, dancing to and infectiously dramatizing Waller tunes, all backed by a hot fivepiece band conducted by pianist Kevin Toney. Chemistry is obvious on stage and in the wings where the musicians do their thing so fine. The best voice belongs to Ritchie, who can belt out “Cash For Your Trash” one moment and melt hearts with “Mean To Me” the next. By all accounts, this has been one of the North Coast Rep’s most successful productions. It’s easy to see why.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through Aug. 7 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $42-$53. northcoastrep.org.
(This production will move to the California Center for the Arts in Escondido for six performances, Aug. 11-14.)
Moxie Theatre’s Ruthless! The Musical is funniest and at its most outrageous in those scenes that pair David McBean in drag and Eileen Bowman as either a mousey housewife or a Broadway diva suprema. That leaves a lot else that either ventures way over the top, or that irritates—the latter almost entirely the result of songs sung by a child. This production of Joel Paley and Marvin Laird’s spoof of both Hollywood and Broadway, like practically any show in which a child with an immature voice is singing, would benefit by having an adult woman play the little girl. (If McBean can be a woman, why can’t a woman be a child?) Narratively, Ruthless! The Musical, codirected by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and Leigh Scarritt, mixes Gypsy, “The Bad Seed,” “All About Eve” and more, but it’s a show that could get by with less.
Ruthless! The Musical runs through Aug. 7 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $30. moxietheatre.com
Avenue Q: A musical comedy about a recent college grad who moves to NYC and is surrounded by foul-mouthed puppets. Presented by the OB Theatre Company, it opens July 28 at the OB Playhouse in Ocean Beach. obtheatrecompany.com
Meteor Shower: In this world premiere comedy, sparks fly and tempers flare when two couples get together to watch a backyard meteor shower. Written by Steve Martin, it opens July 30 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Beautiful: The Carol King Musical: The touring Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning musical about the legendary songwriter behind hits such as “Natural Woman,” “It’s Too Late,” and countless others. It opens Aug. 2 at the San Diego Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
Making Porn : An unemployed straight actor takes a role in a gay porn film in ‘80s San Francisco. The wife finds out and hilarity ensues. Written by Ronnie Larsen, it runs through July 31 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
80 Days : A Musical: Student performers present the musical version of the adventures of Phileas Fogg and his attempt to go Around the World in 80 Days . Presented by the Grossmont College Summer Theatre Arts Conservatory, it runs through Aug. 5 at the Stagehouse Theatre at Grossmont College in El Cajon.
The Best Goodbye : A coming of age story about four suburban kids who are trying their best to be rappers in ‘90s Oxnard, California. Directed by Patrick Kelly and written by local poet Gill Sotu, it runs through Aug. 6 at Park Arts Black Box in University Heights.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ : A musical revue of the black music of the ‘20s and ‘30s, as well as the Harlem Renaissance movement. Written and directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., it runs through Aug. 7 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
American Rhythm : An original musical production that uses the most memorable songs of the last 100 years. Conceived by Robert Smyth, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Dixie Swim Club : Four comedic vignettes of five longtime female friends who have reunited every year for 33 years at a North Carolina beach house. Directed by Jerry Pilato, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
Hamlet : When the prince of Denmark’s father mysteriously dies, he sets out to find the truth and get revenge in Shakespeare’s classic play. Directed by Tom Haine, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Funny Business : The So-Cal premiere of this British farce about a seedy hotel whose guests and staff are thrown into upheaval after the arrival of a notorious journalist. Presented by PowPAC, it runs through Aug. 14 at the Poway Community Theatre. powpac.org
Sense & Sensibility : The West Coast premiere of the musical based on the Jane Austen novel about the perseverant Dashwood sisters. Adapted by Paul Gordon, it runs through Aug. 14 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Junk: The Golden Age of Debt : This world-premiere dramedy from Pulitzer Prize winning author Ayad Akhtar centers on a brash genius who sets out to change the world of finance in ‘80s America. It runs through Aug. 21 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Gypsy : Stephen Sondheim’s lavish musical about an overbearing stage mother’s attempts to make her daughters into stars of the stage. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Sept. 4 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com