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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
AFTER MIDNIGHT
at the Brooks Atkinson

THE JOINT IS JUMPING
By ROBERT L. DANIELS

  Virgil

Those of a certain age will surely recognize fond echoes of Lena Horne, the Nicholas Brothers, Cab Calloway, John Bubbles, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Four Step Brothers, among others, on the stage of the Brooks Atkinson Theater. None of these names are spoken or noted in After Midnight, but the spunky and exuberant new Broadway musical revue pays loving homage to the musical glory days of Harlem in the 30s and the formidable legacy of the Cotton Club.

But even more than its glittering roster of singers and dancers is the music and lyrics of such creative icons as Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. It’s a veritable treasure trove of enduring pop and blues classics gathered together for the fastest 90 minutes on Broadway. There are over a dozen Ellington pieces, beginning with an overture of “Daybreak Express,” performed by the jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, celebrating the singing rails and whirling whistles of a high-speed express train.

Another memorable jazz classic features tapper Jared Grimes dancing to “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” in a slickly elegant routine that summons memories of Bunny Briggs, who often danced with the Charlie Barnet band. The band also provides haunting accompaniment for soprano Carmen Ruby Floyd’s creamy wordless vocal to “Creole Love Call.” I first heard the piece at the Paramount Theater when Duke accompanied the late Kay Davis. Floyd adds a touch of eye-rolling, winking humor to her rendering of the soulful lament that is most amusing.

Other Ellington classics include a loping “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “Rockin’ in Rhythm’” and “The Mooch,” which is often considered the quintessential jungle music piece. From the Arlen songbook there is “Stormy Weather,” sung with a smoldering sense of loss by Fantasia Barrino, the American Idol winner who has matured into a classy young chanteuse. She also brings cheeky humor to the Fields-McHugh strut “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and Cab Calloway’s call-and-response “Zaz Zug Zaz.”

The show drips with class, humor and boundless joy. The costume design has been created with an array of plumes and feathers, top hats and tails by Isabel Toledo. Warren Carlyle is responsible for the dazzling choreography and the sizzling paced direction. 

 


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