Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: “After Midnight”

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New Broadway musical “After Midnight,” celebrates the sounds of Harlem in the 20s and 30s. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

If there’s music and Wynton Marsalis is involved, you know it's going to be special. "After Midnight" featuring Marsalis’ Jazz At Lincoln Center All-Stars is jam packed with some of the finest, jammin' musicians on both sides of the Hudson. With a simple concept – reviving the steamy nights Of Harlem’s famed Cotton Club in the Duke Ellington era – this is a wildly entertaining revue.

Recalling the best of those years, Marsalis and director-choreographer Warren Carlysle came up with some two dozen numbers - sung, danced and musicalized with tremendous verve. And if it starts with disarming subtlety by Dule Hill reciting Langston Hughes, it gets cooking real fast.

Hill and Fantasia Barrino of "American Idol" fame are the credited stars. But it's got an entire cast of starry talents. I can’t name them all but the headliners include a couple of uniquely gifted dancers: Julius "iGlide" Chisolm who seems to be made of rubber and Virgil "Lil O" Gadson, a breakdancing prodigy. Jared Grimes and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards are phenomenal tap dancers and Karine Plantadit - elegance par excellence. Adriane Lenox, a Tony winning actress in "Doubt" brings down the house exhorting "Women Be Wise".

Dule Hill does a creditable job in the least dazzling emcee role. It's a negligible weakness.
Fantasia is fantastic putting her own fine stamp on a few standards...and her scat is music to jazz lovers ears. And Isabel Toledo's sensational costumes deserve a bow all to themselves.

"After Midnight" was conceived by Jack Viertel who’s also credited with the idea for that classic of Broadway revues "Smokey Joe’s Café". There are bound to be comparisons. And certainly "Sophisticated Ladies" another Duke Ellington songbook show comes to mind.

If "Midnight" doesn’t quite equal those two nearly flawless gems, it stands on its own as a thrilling showcase of some very gifted and altogether inspired talents.

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