It’s “After Midnight” and the joint is jumping with some of the best African American dancers and singers on the Broadway stage. Formerly the headliners were Fantasia Barrino and Dule Hill. Presently it is Toni Braxton and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds heading the line-up. Adriane Lenox also shares top billing. “After Midnight,” is nothing short of spectacular. It dazzles and bedazzles. It thrills and sends chills. And, if you are fans of Babyface and Toni Braxton, you will want to catch the show at The Brooks Atkinson Theatre, located at 256 West 47th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenues) in Manhattan.
Acting as narrator throughout the show, Babyface kicks off this extravaganza which takes the audience back to the Harlem Renaissance era of the 1920s and 30s, replete with the hairstyles and clothing of the era, as well as jazz music performed by The Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars handpicked by producer and artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, and led by conductor Daryl Waters.
Duke Ellington’s “Daybreak Express,” played by the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars kicks off the first song of the show, followed by “Happy as the Day is Long,” and “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” Kenny Edmonds and the company enjoy themselves singing “The World on a String,” while Adriane Lenox adds comic relief via the songs “Women Be Wise” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.” Toni Braxton looks resplendent in her gowns during her performance of “Ill Wind” and “Stormy Weather” with Baby Face and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.” I would add however, that since Braxton does not have a booming voice, her mike be turned up so those in the back can hear her lovely voice without straining. Ms. Braxton later joins Everett Bradley (who had fun with “Digga Digga Do”), Monroe Kent, Cedric Neal and T. Oliver Reid in scatting Cab Calloway’s “Zaz Zuh Zaz.” I also enjoyed Bradley who led the spirited vocals in the comedic number “Peckin.” One of the favored precision dance routines was by five male dancers dressed in top hats and tails.
Kudos must go to Director/Choreographer Warren Carlyle for his creative and inventive dance numbers and to costume designer Isabel Toledo for the stunning costumes that add glitter, style and class to the production.
Julius “Glide” Chisolm and Virgil “Lil’ “O’ Gadsen glided and contorted their way through some outstanding dance numbers via “Hottentot Tot” while Jared Grimes master tapped his way through “Tap Mathematician” and Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing.” His feet tapped so fast in that number, I was out of breath just watching this superb tap dancer. Karine Plantadit stands out as a dancer in number after number. Bryonha Marie Parham, Rosena Hill Jackson and Carmen Ruby Floyd’s rendition of “The Gal from Jo’s” was electrifying. Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards’ performance of Get Yourself a New Broom,” was a delight.
I could go on and on, but all I can say is that within the stellar cast of After Midnight there is more talent sharing a single stage then generally seen at one time on Broadway’s Great White Way.