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Jomandi Productions bounces back

It's been a tough couple of years for Jomandi Productions, Atlanta's oldest and most prominent African-American theater. Both Tom Jones and Marsha Jackson-Randolph, who founded Jomandi in 1978, have departed, and mounting financial woes have led to the cancellation of several shows.

This weekend, though, the resilient theater is staging a comeback. The "New" Jomandi, as it's now billing itself, is returning to its crowd-pleasing roots with Ain't Misbehavin', Richard Maltby and Murray Horowitz's musical revue of Fats Waller songs. The show was chosen by interim artistic director Andrea Frye, who's splitting her time between Atlanta and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"Collaborating with Andrea, we wanted something that wasn't that heavy on the stage side, but we did want to put a lot of people in the audience," says Greg Stevens, Jomandi's general manager and a board member since its inception.

The 1930s cabaret-style show, which saw a successful Broadway run in the late '70s and a couple of revivals since, features five singers on stage and three band members performing Waller's signature jazz/blues classics. Jomandi newcomer Brian Vernon directs and choreographs the show.

Says Stevens, the theater has survived thanks in part because of an emergency $300,000 state grant. Also, its administrative offices have relocated to City Hall East in a space donated by the city of Atlanta's Bureau of Cultural Affairs. As for the remainder of the season, Jomandi is bringing back its perennial Black Nativity and also is mounting Joe Louis Blues, The Dance on Widows Row and In the Blood.

Jomandi Productions presents Ain't Misbehavin' Sept. 1-30. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 3 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St. $18-$25. 404-876-6346.

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