Old school Harlem is revitalized in the elegant After Midnight, which opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Sunday.
Director and choreographer Warren Carlyle smoothly transports audiences to the golden age of the Harlem Renaissance with over 25 stunning musical and dance numbers that include “Stormy Weather,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” Similar to FELA! and A Night With Janis Joplin, this is a non-traditional musical with the only narrative to entertain as if you are an audience member in the legendary Cotton Club.
Fantasia Barrino stars until February 9 as one of the many vocalists belting out intricate jazz numbers. Barrino’s vocal performance is a departure from the wailing gospel and blues she mastered over the years. Here, the American Idol alum shows the beauty in the restraint of her voice, singing pitch-perfect, crystal clear notes proving she is always and forever a vocalist. Soul, pop, R&B or Broadway — Tasia can sang.
Triple threat Dulé Hill (actor, dancer and seriously good singer) returns to Broadway as the host of the Harlem spectacle, holding his own among vets and fresh newcomers. Hill’s suave style and nuanced voice is the perfect transition to Harlem.
Backed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, every cast member transformed into the fever of old time Harlem from the soul in their feet to the jubilation in their eyes. The jaw-dropping moves of Daniels J. Wattts, Phillip Attmore, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards (Michael Jackson’s former tap coach!) and many others were incredible to watch. Adriane Lenox was a welcomed left-turn from the prim and proper jazz — a bluesy broad cursing, drinking and singing songs like “Women Be Wise.” Jared Grimes nearly cracked the stage open as he tap danced like it was his last second on earth during “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” From Grimes to C.K. Edwards to So You Think You Can Dance’s Lil’ O — After Midnight is the best choreography I have ever seen on the Broadway stage.
Infectiously joyful and beautiful, After Midnight is not just a celebration of Black rhythms and dances but a time capsule of American culture — jazz, blues and tap are the origins of pop music. Conceived by Jack Viertel, the show never boxes itself into the constraints of race — refreshingly not a “Black” version of a white story, but a production that shines on its own originality.
After Midnight is currently playing at the Brooks Atkin Theatre on Broadway.