May 18, 2014
From the very first blare of a trumpet to the final dazzling bow, After Midnight transports audiences to the romantic nights in 1930’s Harlem when Caucasians flocked to see the all black reviews at the famed Cotton Club.
The 90 minute musical steps high around quotes from the Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes capturing the exotic glamour of showgirls, jazz rhythms and dance moves that forever influenced the world’s identification with “American culture.”
These were the heady nights and those were the glittering performers come to life in the music and dance routines amiably charged-up by choreographer/director Warren Carlyle. His seamless parade of acts never loses interest because Carlyle amplifies the personalities and their connection to the audience.
Some of the city’s finest tap, jazz and specialty dancers grace the stage at Brooks Atkinson. A dead ringer for Mercedes Ellington, Duke Ellington’s dancer granddaughter, the long legged, slim bodied dancer in a blond bob wig, Karine Plantadit embraces the style through her strong technique, shared comedic timing and flair. (Tony winner in Twyla Tharps’ “Fly Away With Me.)
From the first presentation of After Midnight at City Center Encores! to the current Broadway production, selections tightened-up and Dule Hill as the MC has grown into the part as the mc exposing a brighter and lighter countenance.
Performers reference some of the great acts of the era including the Nicolas Brothers, known for performing in top hat and tails, executing spectacular gymnastic dance/tap routines up and down stair cases as demonstrated by the Tap Duo, Daniel & Philip. Laughter showered Adriane Lenox during her bawdy rendition of “Women Be Wise,” and musically embodying the era, Fantasia Barrino – as one of a number of rotating “lead” singers—scored with the sultry “Stormy Weather” and a bouncy rendition of the Sunny Side of the Street joined by the unstoppable dancers C. K. & Christopher.
Bright taps announce the ever-fine Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, and explosive sonic ripples underscore Jared Grimes, and slips and slides escape from Julius “iGlide” Chisolm (tribute to veteran tap dancer Jimmy Slyde) and Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson. For unflinching style and wit, there’s the perfectly sheened comedic riffs by Phillip Attmore who fronts the single, slickest synchronized male corps on Broadway featuring modern dance notable Desmond Richardson, Christopher Broughton, C.L. Edwards. Daniel J. Watts and Bobby Daye.
Cranking out swingin’ compositions primarily by Duke Ellington, the best band on Broadway buoys all of these great performances with members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center All –Stars conducted by Daryl Waters. There is no better brass section on Broadway, led by trumpeter Gregory Gisbert and supported by percussionist Alvester Garnett. Conceived by Jack Vietrel, it’s true that many of the on-stage “specialty acts” arrived with their “personalized” routines, but Mr. Carlyle’s choreographic and directorial contributions expertly orchestrates an explosive snapshot of sensations experienced—once upon a time and long ago-- in Harlem After Midnight.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis