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By Brian Scott Lipton
The sophistication and sass of Harlem’s heyday come to vivid life in the new Broadway musical “After Midnight,” which begins previews on Friday, October 18 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in advance of a November 3rd opening. Using the music of the legendary Duke Ellington, this 90-minute non-stop entertainment offers 29 numbers created by four-time Drama Desk Award nominee, director-choreographer Warren Carlyle.
As Carlyle points out, the show – which began life two years ago at City Center as “Cotton Club Parade” — now blends music and movement from the 1920s and 1930s with steps from 2013. It’s all executed by a crackerjack cast of nearly 30 singers and dancers, including Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox and Tony nominee Karine Plantadit. And they’re all dressed to the nines in sumptuous costumes by fashion legends Ruben and Isabel Toledo. In fact, Carlyle choreographed one number called “The Mooch” just because of the clothes crafted by these talented artisans.
The show’s timeless score is being performed onstage by The Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, a group of 17 top-flight musicians who were handpicked by the great Wynton Marsalis. They are being conducted by Broadway veteran Daryl Waters, who is thrilled that modern audiences will be able to hear such classics as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” performed by this extraordinary orchestra.
That particular number will be sung by the first of the show’s rotating guest stars, Grammy Award winner and former “American Idol” champion Fantasia. The R&B diva, who made a sensational Broadway debut as Celie in “The Color Purple,” is not only excited to be back on the Great White Way for the second time, but she cannot wait to show off her jazz chops to audiences who may only know her more contemporary material. “Everyone should come see this show,” says Fantasia.
That sentiment is echoed by the show’s other marquee name, Dule Hill, who acts as the show’s host and audience guide. While Hill may be best known for his work on TV’s “The West Wing” and “Psych,” Broadway is where this multitalented star grew up, beginning his career at age 10 as the understudy for Savion Glover in “The Tap Dance Kid.”
Does that mean he gets to show off some fancy footwork? You bet, says Carlyle. “Dule is our secret weapon.”
Video and Photos: Sandi Durell