News Column

Uncomplicated and Entertaining

November 4, 2013




New Broadway musical revue, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St.

Conceived by Jack Viertel. Directed by Warren Carlyle.

With Fantasia Barrino, Dule Hill, Adriane Lenox, Karine Plantadit and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards.

Schedule: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $60 to $142. 212-239-6200, or

"After Midnight," which opened Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, is easy to enjoy.

It's an uncomplicated, old-fashioned variety show, with extremely engaging singers and dancers and an exciting big jazz band. There's no story line, and not much in the way of a theme.

The setting is supposedly Harlem's fabled Cotton Club in the early 1930s, and Dule Hill ("The West Wing," "Psych") recites some scene-establishing poetry by Langston Hughes.

But the show, directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, is essentially a brisk 90 minutes of performances of songs of the period, both well-known ("I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea") and obscure ("Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night").

The last song, a bawdy comic number, is amusingly performed by Adriane Lenox, a reminder that the actress, who won a Tony for her dramatic performance in "Doubt," started out in musicals.

"After Midnight" will have a rotation of "guest stars" headlining the show. The first is Fantasia Barrino, who's built an ongoing career after winning the third season of "American Idol." She'll be followed after 16 weeks by k.d. lang.

Singing four numbers, including a seriously bluesy "Stormy Weather," Barrino fits easily into the show's ensemble approach. But the individuals whose performances you take away are the dancers.

Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, who taps with incredible speed and infectious rhythm while maintaining an expression of ethereal calm, is a marvel.

Her tapping to "Get Yourself a New Broom," supported by Daniel J. Watts and Phillip Attmore, is a sublime highlight.

Jared Grimes is a remarkable acrobatic tapper, and Karine Plantadit a vivacious modern dancer. Julius Chisolm re-creates the fascinating, sinuous "snakehips" moves of the era, while Virgil Gadson exhibits awesome -- if not exactly period-appropriate -- break dance skills.

The entire show is driven by the enthusiastic, irresistible 17- piece band, filled with veteran jazz musicians.

The group, which deserved more time in the spotlight than it received, is named the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, reflecting the production's origins.

Called "Cotton Club Parade," it was initially a collaboration between the Jazz at Lincoln Center program and the New York City Center, and was performed at the City Center for brief runs in 2011 and 2012.

The emergent "After Midnight" is not your typical Broadway musical. But, taken on its own terms, it's thoroughly entertaining.

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