Posted in Adriane Lenox, Cotton Club, Dorothy Fields, Duke Ellington, Dulé Hill, Fantasia, Harlem, Harold Arlen, Langston Hughes. Wynton Marsalis

A Harlem Renaissance at "After Midnight"

“After Midnight,” which started life as “Cotton Club Parade” in two seasons of the City Center Encores! series, can be found in good company. The long-running “Chicago,” originated at Encores!, which generally revives shows that were short-lived in their first Broadway incarnation. An Encores! production generally mimics a late-phase workshop, with minimal scenery, few costumes, actors singing from books. It also always features a first-rate orchestra.

Daniel J. Watts, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Phillip Attmore in a tap number from “After Midnight.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

A few Encores! transfer to Broadway runs, like the recent “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Chicago.” Most don’t enjoy the longevity or the long-leggedness of the latter. “After Midnight,” at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for an open run, was conceived by Jack Viertal as a tribute to the jazz palaces and night clubs of Harlem. It is a grand spectacle, with resplendent costumes by Isabel Toledo that are also a tribute to the era of big night clubs.

Dulé Hill has the world on a string, in “After Midnight.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Framed by snippets of Langston Hughes’ poetry, delivered by The Host, (Dulé Hill), fuelled by classic songs by the likes of Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Ethel Waters & Sidney Easton, “After Midnight” ultimately belongs to the band, The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars conducted by Daryl Waters, and the dancers, choreographed by Warren Carlyle (who also directs.)

Tony-winner (for Doubt) Adriane Lenox is a lusty lady in “After Midnight.” Photo by Matthew Murphy. 

Adriane Lenox, reprising her role from the Encores! show as a tough talking jazz singer, is brilliantly comedic as she lushly, and lustily, sings Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise” and Easton & Waters’ “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.”

Jared Grimes in a scene from “After Midnight” in a
photo by Matthew Murpy.
Julius “iGlide” Chisholm and Virgil
“Little O” Gadsen in “After Midnight.”
Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Phillip Attmore’s beautiful voice lovingly caresses Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen’s “Happy As The Day Is Long,” while he and his dance partner, Daniel J. Watts tap along.  Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Michael Jackson’s tap coach, teaches us all a thing or two when she joins them in Koehler and Arlen’s “Raisin’ The Rent”/”Get Yourself a New Broom.”

All the dancing is “oh” inspiring, and the snaky moves of “iGlide,” (Julius Chisholm) are especially fascinating; here is a man whose moves are so supple, he seems to have no bones.

Fantasia Barrino, backed by The Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars (Adam Birnbaum on piano and conductor Daryl Watts, pictured) singing Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh’s “On The Sunny Side of the Street” in “After Midnight” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Cotton Club had “Celebrity Nights,” and “After Midnight” aims to follow suit, with Fantasia as the Guest Star for now, and k.d. lang, Toni Braxton and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds slated for future appearances.

Don’t look for a story from “After Midnight,” except for the vignettes in song that it delivers. This is strictly a night out watching a romanticized memory of the by gone night spots that once graced Harlem.

For more information about “After Midnight,” visit www.aftermidnightbroadway.com.