From the design elements, to the band, to the singers and dancers, this show sates in under 90 minutes. Not a second of that is wasted. Conceived by Jack Viertel, this production has been seamlessly directed by Warren Carlyle. He has cooked up a theatrical meal that doesn't leave you wanting, except perhaps for more.
Each of the band members that makes up the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars has been handpicked by none other than Wynton Marsalis himself, the show's Musical Director and also one of its producers. Their skill is a pleasure to watch as they share the stage with the cast. Their sound, electric.
After Midnight celebrates the music of such iconic composers as Duke Ellington, Ted Koehler, Harold Arlen, Sippie Wallace, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. The score features a host of familiar songs like "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," "I've Got the World on a String," "Women Be Wise," "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "Stormy Weather," and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." It started life at City Center in 2011 as a two-night production of Jazz at Lincoln Center under the title Cotton Club Parade.
The company is a multi-faceted team that mirrors the variety of talent that was the Cotton Club. What makes this company unique is the broad backgrounds of some of the cast. In the coming months It will feature a rotating cast of guest vocalists, the first being Fantasia Barrino (The Color Purple). Barrino passionately handles "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Stormy Weather," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and a sultry and playful "Zaz Zuh Zaz." In February Barrino will be replaced by k.d. lang and it's hard to imagine Ms. lang performing this number. She will, however, undoubtedly bring her own sense of style to the show.
Dulé Hill is the evening's master of ceremonies and fluent with the gorgeous and poignant prose of Langston Hughes which tie the evening together. He is equally as adroit when called upon to sing and dance. Hill began his professional career as Savion Glover's understudy in The Tap Dance Kid on Broadway and can currently be seen on the USA Network series Psych.
Adriane Lenox , last seen on Broadway in a dramatic role in Doubt, for which she won a Tony Award, is given the duty of handling two comedic numbers in this production. She leaves an indelible mark with the Sippie Wallace tune "Women Be Wise" and "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night."
The show's dancing ranges from traditional tap and the snake hips dance (originated by Earl "Snake Hips" Tucker) combined with old-style break dancing. The show features Virgil "Lil' O" Gadson and Julius "iGlide" Chisolm. Both men have appeared on "So You Think You Can Dance" and give After Midnight a modern twist with their contemporary moves. These two men will amaze you as they isolate one body part after another and make them seem like they have become disconnected.
Features dancers Karine Plantadit and Jared Grimes are further evidence of the embarrassment of riches from which this show suffers. She is beautifully featured in "Black and Tan Fantasy" and he tears up Tap Mathematician / "It Don't Mean a Thing." In a fun turn, Carmen Ruby Floyd delivers a coy rendition of Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call" in which she battles one of the trumpet players for the spotlight.
The costumes in this production are breathtaking. Designed by award-winning fashion designer Isabel Toledo - in a first-time-at-bat design for a Broadway show - has crafted costumes that nearly upstage everything around them (and that's very hard to do in this show). Ms. Toledo is probably best known for creating Michelle Obama's dress for President Obama's inaugural ceremony in 2009. Ms. Toledo has been the recipient of the prestigious Couture Council Award for Artistry in Fashion and the Smithsonian Museum's Cooper Hewitt National Design Award. She will likely have to make room for one more award come next June.
Toledo is teamed here in a beautifully choreographed act of design with lighting designer Howell Binkley and scenic designer John Lee Beatty. All three of these elements are so beautifully woven together that you would think all three were designed by the same person.
Everything about After Midnight is sublime and well worth every cent you shell out for it. It's hard to imagine a more magical night at the theatre. You will want to go back again when the new feature soloists join the company in February and future months. But hurry, you don't want to miss Ms. Barrino.