Elegant and sassy. Exuberant, stylish, optimistic and filled to capacity with tunes that will set your feet a tapping and your heart a racing, The Cotton Club is alive and well and stomping and splitting and sliding and singing – making the Brooks Atkinson Theatre the new Jazz Mecca to head for to be thoroughly entertained by AFTER MIDNIHT – a new musical revue expertly directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. It’s ninety minutes of pure joy emceed by Dule Hill with short poetic narrative by Langston Hughes and music direction by Wynton Marsalis.
The country may have been deep in the depression but at The Cotton Club in Harlem where only whites could see some of the best black performers around everything was bubbly, glamorous, happy and filled with hope – even when singing the blues.
AFTER MIDNIGHT is a spectacular production any way you look at it. A celebration of The Cotton Club’s music and performers. That lone, leaning lamp post is deceiving but once it is lit the stage comes to vivid, colorful life with a 17 piece on stage band (The Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars) playing Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Fields, Ethel Waters and Cab Calloway to the hilt on a unit set by John Lee Beatty that along with lighting designer Howell Binkley changes color to adapt to the phenomenal costumes by Isabel Toledo making her Broadway debut. And what a debut it is.
The last time a fashion designer did costumes for a musical (and I may be wrong) but I think it was Donald Brooks for NO STRINGS starring Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley and they were lovely. Ms. Toledo’s costumes are original, whimsical and to die for.
Warren Carlyle has outdone himself with choreography that is imaginative, contemporary and breathtaking. Without as much as a word he can convey a story through dance. Tap, boogie, athletic, funny, strenuous, jive and street smart are all covered with dancers that can execute the moves beautifully. “Peckin” is destined to become a classic with “specialty” numbers aplenty.
Making a star entrance as “Special guest Star” is Fantasia Barrino and she does not disappoint. She is wondrous. Looking fabulous (tats and all) and singing her heart out with “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” “Stormy Weather” and “On The Sunny Side of the Street” she simmers with every note.
Wonderful comic relief is supplied by Adriane Lenox with two witty numbers “Women Be Wise” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night”.
Featured dancers/singers Karine Plantadit, Julius “iGlide” Chisolm, Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson and Jared Grimes and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards – oh they are all terrifically talented. GO GO GO. Even a funeral is cause for celebration!
There are songs that I had never heard and want to hear again. There are “verses” sung. Verses that are a thing of the past but will now be introduced to a new generation of theatergoers to be loved and appreciated. What an outstanding production! Conceived by Jack Viertel. Thank you.
www.AfterMidnightBroadway.com Photos: Matthew Murphy
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