×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘After Midnight’

Snazzy Broadway revue, gorgeously designed and packed with talent, is great (if somewhat sanitized) entertainment.

With:

Fantasia Barrino, Dule Hill,  Adriane Lenox, Karine Plantadit, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Julius "iGlide" Chisolm, Virgil "Lil' O" Gadson, Jared Grimes.

When Duke Ellington and his orchestra played the Cotton Club, the swells donned their white tie and tails and went uptown to Harlem in limousines.  Everyone else took the A train.  “After Midnight,” a musical revue that Jack Viertel and Warren Carlyle steered through Encores! to this snazzy Broadway production, salutes that fabled era without attempting to re-create it.  This stylized treatment of a midnight floorshow at a 1930s jazz club is gorgeously designed to showcase roof-raising performances from top-flight talent — backed up by a 17-piece swing band loaded with brass and holding down the stage. 

John Lee Beatty’s sophisticated set of an elegant nightclub recalls legendary hot spots like the Cotton Club, the Savoy Ballroom and the Sugar Cane Club during an era when swing was king in Harlem.  Dule Hill, the amiable star of “Psych,” makes an agreeable tour guide and wisely refrains from overdoing the song-and-dance chores better left to the pros.

Those bankable stars are toplined by Fantasia Barrino, the “American Idol” phenom and Grammy-holding singer who earns her bread and butter here with torrid interpretations of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Stormy Weather,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and a raunchy version of Cab Calloway’s scatty “Zaz Zuh Zaz” that has four dirty old men (well-cast company ringers) falling out of their front-row box seats.

Costumer Isabel Toledo clearly adores Fantasia’s zaftig body, at one point pouring her into a brief, form-fitting, electric-blue number with a lampshade skirt.  Toledo, whose clothes can be found in Michelle Obama’s closet, seems to love every one of the 30-plus beautiful bodies in this company, draping them as she does in eye-catching ensembles that fit like second skins and reflect both fashion flair and imaginative wit.  (The geometric black-and-white dresses and feathered fascinators in one number earned audible gasps from the uptown fashionistas at one preview performance.)

The dance pants alone must have posed a design challenge, having to accommodate all the athletic splits and leaps and somersaults that helmer Carlyle has choreographed for the sensational dancers in the company.  The tap dancers among them include traffic-stopping talents like Jared Grimes, who performs an awesome precision routine to “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” and Julius “iGlide” Chisolm and Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson, whose dancing duel in “Hottentot” is downright dazzling.  But even the novelty numbers, like Karine Plantadit’s acrobatic feats in Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” and the synchronized routine to “Peckin’,” executed by a six-man ensemble of dancing fools in white tie and tails, are works of art.

With more than two dozen jazz compositions on the bill — many by Ellington, but with composers like Harold Arlen and Jimmy McHugh well represented — you can bet there’s a lot of singing in this show.  Fantasia is clearly the star of this revue, but Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rosena M. Hill Jackson and Bryonha Marie Parham, who keep showing up in funny, flirtatious incarnations of backup singers, are the show’s backbone.

It falls to Adriane Lenox, though, to bring a little historical accuracy to this idealized fantasy of Harlem in its heyday.  Looking like she’s been there and done that, but was never actually convicted for it, Lenox rocks the house with two vulgar blues solos — “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night” (by Sidney Easton and Ethel Waters) and “Women Be Wise” (by Sippie Wallace, better known, perhaps, for “I’m a Mighty Tight Woman”) — that offer a hint of gritty reality.

Sanitized though it may be, “After Midnight” is great entertainment.  And by the time the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars close the show with one last, glorious blast of brass, the whole house is “Rockin’ In Rhythm” and nobody wants to go home.

Popular on Variety

Broadway Review: 'After Midnight'

Brooks Atkinson Theater; 1,069 seats; $199 top.  Opened Nov. 3, 2013.  Reviewed Oct. 30.  Running time:  ONE HOUR, 30 MIN.

Production:

A Scott Sanders Productions, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Furman, Candy Spelling, Starry Night Entertainment, Hal Newman, Allan S. Gordon / Adam S. Gordon, James L. Nederlander, Robert K. Kraft, Catherine & Fred Adler, Robert Appel, Jeffrey Bolton, Scott M. Delman, James Fantaci, Ted Liebowitz, Stephanie P. McClelland, Sandy Block, and Carol Fineman presentation, in association with Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group, Stephen & Ruth Hendel, and Tom Kirdahy presentation of a musical in one act conceived by Jack Viertel. 

Creative:

Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle.  Sets, John Lee Beatty; costumes, Isabel Toledo; lighting, Howell Binkley; sound, Peter Hylenski; hair & wigs, Charles G. LaPointe; music direction, The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, artistic director, Wynton Marsalis; music supervisor, additional music arranger, conductor, Daryl Waters; production stage manager, Kim Vernace.

Cast:

Fantasia Barrino, Dule Hill,  Adriane Lenox, Karine Plantadit, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Julius "iGlide" Chisolm, Virgil "Lil' O" Gadson, Jared Grimes.

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content