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A CurtainUp Review
After Midnight
After Midnight
(Photo credit: Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
It should come as no surprise that the enthusiastically received revue Cotton Club Parade, as originally conceived by City Center's Encores! and Jazz at Lincoln Center, would find its way to Broadway. The success of the 2011 production and its follow-up edition in 2012 has evolved into a slightly more enhanced production re-named After Midnight.

As the earlier title suggests, this revue is a celebration of jazz, blues, poetry and dance that exemplified the aforementioned nightspot where white folk from downtown came uptown to see such celebrated black entertainers, musicians and dancers as Lena Horne, Count Basie, Bessie Smith, The Nicholas Brothers, and Billie Holiday (although you can see Dee Dee Bridgewater playing Holiday right now at the Little Shubert Theater).

Not surprising considering the commitment that one makes to an extended Broadway run, Jazz great Wynton Marsalis has relinquished the baton to Daryl Waters to front the on-stage big band The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars. I would bet there is no diminishment in brilliance from the sound of those great musicians, as their bandstand glides back and forth for various numbers and completely takes over the spotlight after the finale (so don't leave your seat). The band is like nothing else that can be heard on Broadway.

Despite the size and the prominence of the band, there is plenty of room on stage for the bevy of showgirls that strut their stuff in black and white feathers and plumes and especially for the corps of male and female dancers, and the soloists who take command of the stage. The show's director and choreographer Warren Carlyle has done a masterful job in creating a fast-moving and often thrillingly varied entertainment package.

While snappy dance routines are at the fore, there is a narrative thread provided by the show's formally attired host Dulé Hill who not only parcels out bits of poetry by Langston Hughes, but also shares with the full company his talents as a singer and dancer. Hill may be best known for his role on TV's The West Wing, but it is his elegant contributions to "I've Got the World on a String," and "Ain't It De Truth? showcase his versatility as a musical entertainer.

You should know up front that, despite having the Cotton Club as a frame, you won't be seeing a lot of old hat routines, hearing dated arrangements, or subjected to stereotypical attitudes from a former time. You will, instead, be delighted by the dynamic re-energizing and revitalization of our musical heritage as interpreted by some of the most terrific entertainers and musicians in their field. No one who hears the poetry of Hughes can think of it as less than fresh as it serves as a bridge between music that is timeless.

Nostalgia may be playing its part, but so is the need for the artists involved to showcase the vocal styling and musical impressions that have respectfully emerged and also evolved out of the jazz age. This could not be better exemplified than with the extraordinary song styling of Tony award-winner Adriane Lenox, who has remained with the show since its inception. Playing a kind of tough-skinned sassy, funny blues singer, Lenox is hilarious — amid swigs of hooch, singing "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night" and also a rarity that seems to have come out of the blue called "Women Be Wise," that should put it back on anyone's list of hits.

One clever gimmick that the producers have in mind is to keep changing the line-up of guest performers, supposedly in keeping with the Cotton Club's tradition of "Celebrity Sundays," (as I was learned from an article about the show in Playbill Magazine). Currently is Grammy and American Idolwinner Fantasia Barrino who made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple. She knows how to embrace a song as well as an audience and deserved the adoring response to her scat-enhanced "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," and a super sultry "Stormy Weather."

The sheer number of songs sung and danced is impressive, but I'd like to single out dancers Phllip Attmore, Christopher Broughton, C.K. Edwards, Daniel J. Watts and Everett Bradley who step in amazing precision in top hat and tails through "Peckin." And there is a bracing challenge of sorts between the slithery snakelike Julius "iglide" Chisolm and the breakdancing Virgil "Lil O" Gadson as well as some wonderfully eccentric dancing by Karine Plantadit.

Creating knock-out costumes for big Broadway musicals has always been an essential element and has helped to make careers for many of the most imaginative in this field. So it is with great enthusiasm that I can report that the Cuban-born fashion designer (a favorite of First Lady Michelle Obama) has designed a dazzling array of era-evoking costumes, all of which also showcase her contemporary sensibility. Set Designer John Lee Beatty has given the show some handsome backdrops with the obligatory chandelier in time for a dancing finale that will likely have you leaping to your feet right along with this great company. This is one show that could go on well after midnight without wearing out its welcome.

After Midnight
Conceived by Jack Viertel
Directed and Choreographed by Warren Caryle

Cast: Fantasia Barrino, Dule Hill, Adriane Lenox, Karine Plantadit, Dormesia Sumbry-Edwards, Julius "iGlide" Chisolm, Virgil "Lil' O" Gadson, Jared Grimes.
Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Isabel Toledo
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Musical Supervisor/Additional Arranger/Conductor: Daryl Waters
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th Street
(800) 745 - 3000
Tickets $60.00 - $142.00
Performances: Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and matinee performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm and Sundays at 3 pm.
From 10/18/13 Opened 11/03/13; announced closing 6/29/14after failing to win best musical Tony
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 11/02/13

Opening /Dulé Hill
Daybreak Express / The Jazz At Lincoln Center All Stars & The Company By Duke Ellington
Happy As the Day is Long /Daniel & Phillip By Ted Koehler & Harold Arlen
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea /Carmen, Rosena, & Bryonha By Ted Koehler & Harold Arlen
I've Got the World on a String / Dulé Hill & The Company By Ted Koehler & Harold Arlen
Women Be Wise/ Adriane Lenox By Sippie Wallace
Braggin' in Brass / The Jazz At Lincoln Center All Stars By Duke Ellington, Henry Nemo & Irving Mills
I Can't Give You Anything But Love /Fantasia Barrino By Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh
Peckin'/ Phillip, Christopher, C.K., Desmond, Daniel & Everett By Harry James & Ben Pollack
Diga Diga Doo / Everett, Cedric, Monroe, & T. Oliver By Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh
East St. Louis Toodle-oo /Virgil "Lil'O" Gadson, Karine Pantadit, Monique, Marija, By Duke Ellington & Bubber Miley Erin, Bahiyah, & Taeler Stormy Weather / Fantasia Barrino By Ted Koehler & Harold Arlen
The Skrontch / Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards & The Company By Duke Ellington, Henry Nemo & Irving Mills
Hottentot /Julius "iGlide" Chisolm & Virgil "Lil'O" Gadson By Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh
Ain't it De Truth? /Dulé Hill, Everett, Cedric, Monroe, & T. Oliver By E.Y. Harburg & Harold Arlen
Raisin' the Rent Get Yourself a New Broom /Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Phillip & Daniel By Ted Koehler & Harold Arlen
Zaz Zuh Zaz/Fantasia Barrino, Everett, Monroe, Cedric, & T. Oliver By Cab Calloway & Harry White
Creole Love Call /Carmen & The Jazz At Lincoln Center All Stars By Duke Ellington
Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night/ Adriane Lenox By Sidney Easton & Ethel Waters
The Mooche /Desmond, Taeler, Bahiyah, & Marija By Duke Ellington & Irving Mills
On The Sunny Side of the Street/ Fantasia Barrino, C.K. & Christopher By Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh
The Gal From Joe's/. Carmen, Rosena, & Bryonha By Duke Ellington & Irving Mills
Black and Tan Fantasy /Karine Pantadit By Duke Ellington & Bubber Miley
Tap Mathematician / It Don't Mean A Thing Jared Grimes & The Jazz At Lincoln Center All Stars By Duke Ellington
Cotton Club Stomp /The Company By Duke Ellington, Harry Carney & Johnny Hodges
Freeze and Melt /Dulé Hill, Carmen, Rosena, Bryonha, & The Company By Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh
Rockin' in Rhythm /The Jazz At Lincoln Center All Stars By Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Harry Carney
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