(click to enlarge photos)
By: Sandi Durell
It’s the Harlem jazz age, the 1920s-1930s, when the best black entertainers and musicians were the featured entertainment at the historic Cotton Club. Come along as Dulé Hill, a pied piper of sorts, plays narrator (and sings and dances) in the words of Langston Hughes poetry, leading us back to the sexy, hot and smoky “Celebrity Nights,” presenting the high energy performers featured in this new homage to the era.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars (Daryl Waters, conducting), hand picked musicians by Wynton Marsalis, celebrate the Duke Ellington era at the fabulous club with The Duke’s original arrangements.
90 minutes will fly by as sensational dancers in plumage, sparkle, zoot suits, tails, top hats, spats – swingers and tappers – smooth, cool – in dazzling styled colorful costumes by Isabel Toledo, impress the eye with memorable moves choreographed by the uber talented Warren Carlyle who also directs.
Sassy Adriane Lenox imparts her wisdom and wile in “Women Be Wise” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night;” the mini-male Rockettes line of Phillip Attmore, Christopher Broughton, C.K. Edwards, Desmond Richardson, Everett Bradley and Daniel J. Watts are “Peckin’” as hot feet and tunes keep flying.
Fantasia (American Idol winner, The Color Purple) is aglow and a-glitter adding her unique sound to the Great American Songbook in stylish versions of “Stormy Weather,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” as she makes a limited run guest appearance, soon to be replaced by k.d. Lang followed by Toni Braxton.
The harmonic blends of the golden voices of Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rosena M. Hill Jackson and Bryonha Marie Parham are magical “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and “The Gal From Joe’s.”
Remember Gumby? Look no further than the ultra flexible Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson and Julius “iGlide” Chisolm as they move and groove to “Hottentot.” Dance sensations Karine Plantadit in “Black and Tan Fantasy” and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards in “Raisin’ the Rent”/”Get Yourself a New Broom” along with Tap Mathematician Jared Grimes, who dances on all sides of his feet in “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” all raise the roof.
The exceptional all talented cast will have you dancing in the aisles as you do “The Mooche” and “Freeze and Melt.” The scenic design is by John Lee Beatty with lighting by Howell Binkley.
It’s pure pleasure-filled time spent on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on West 47th Street – “Diga Diga Doo!”
*Photos Matthew Murphy