Visiting director tackles PSST 'Ain't Misbehavin'

·3 min read

Jun. 11—VALDOSTA — Taavon Gamble says organization is as much an asset as creativity in preparing for the opening of a Peach State Summer Theatre musical.

"It is a test of organizational skills. You have to be organized coming in," Gamble said, adding there are only less than a couple handful of days to rehearse a show — as well as rehearsing and performing two other productions. "So, you come in with a lot of it prepared."

Gamble is the director/choreographer of "Ain't Misbehavin'" which opens June 17 and the choreographer of "Sister Act" opening June 24. PSST!'s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella" opened June 3.

Rehearsals for "Ain't Misbehavin'" began the Saturday morning after opening night for "Cinderella."

"It is a crazy schedule," Gamble said. "You kind of get lost in time. What is time?"

"Ain't Misbehavin'" promises to take audiences to another time — the era of jazz great Fats Waller.

Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller was a renaissance man of jazz — composer, pianist, comedian, organist, singer, violinist. His songs include well-known standards such as the title tune, "Honeysuckle Rose," "The Jitterbug Waltz," "Black and Blue," "The Joint is Jumpin'" and numerous other songs composed by him and other songwriters.

Gamble said audiences may not know some of the song titles but will likely recognize the tunes from Waller's lifetime — a short 39 years from May 21, 1904 to Dec. 15, 1943.

"Ain't Misbehavin'" is a tribute to Waller and his music. Gamble said the smart song selection reflects the era in Harlem and Manhattan, revealing the culture and race relations of the time period.

"There's no traditional dialogue and no streamline narrative as with a traditional musical," Gamble said. The songs tell the story.

"Ain't Misbehavin'" showcases a cast of five performers. Gamble was instrumental in the auditioning process and familiar with the show's performers when they arrived in Valdosta to start rehearsing.

For Gamble, the 2022 PSST! season marks a return to the theatre company and Valdosta.

He performed in "Chicago," "Seussical" and "The Tuesday Afternoon Regulars" as part of the 2005 inaugural PSST! season.

Gamble and Hank Rion, Peach State artistic director, have a mutual friend who let Gamble know that Rion was seeking a director/choreographer for "Ain't Misbehavin'" and needed a choreographer for "Sister Act." A few emails later, Gamble said, the job was his.

His work extends past Valdosta.

Gamble's PSST! biography describes him as a "New England-based actor, director, choreographer and educator."

Direction and choreography work includes "Joy," City Theatre; "Pippin," Jean's Playhouse; "Seussical," Pittsburgh Playhouse; "A Chorus Line," "The Addams Family," "All Shook Up," Arundel Barn Playhouse. Choreography work includes "A Christmas Carol," Trinity Rep; "West Side Story," "Spamalot," "Chicago," "Guys and Dolls," "The Music Man," "The Wedding Singer," Bigfork Summer Playhouse; "Airness," University California Santa Barbara; "Kiss of the Spider Woman," Brown University; "Legally Blonde," Bryant University.

He also teaches dance in the Brown/Trinity Rep master of fine arts program and is a resident company member at Trinity Repertory, according to his PSST! biography.

Now, he adds "Ain't Misbehavin'" to his director/choreographer list.

"I think it's a show that audiences are going to come in and love the minute the orchestra starts," Gamble said. "That music is just going to set the tone."

"Ain't Misbehavin'" opens 7:30 p.m., June 17, June 18, and continues in rotating repertory through July 23, Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. More information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst, or call (229) 259-7770.