Stage Review

After Midnight

AFTER MIDNIGHT Fantasia Barrino in Broadway revue
Image credit: Matthew Murphy
AFTER MIDNIGHT Fantasia Barrino in Broadway revue

There are showstoppers aplenty in the ebullient new musical revue After Midnight, a celebration of classic jazz and swing numbers with some of the most astounding and spirited choreography currently on Broadway.

Fantasia Barrino, who impressed Broadway audiences six years ago with her eight-month run in The Color Purple, is billed as a ''special guest star'' and proves that American Idol barely scratched the surface of her vocal talent. She brings her breathy voice and inspired intonation to two standards by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, ''I Can't Give You Anything But Love'' and ''On the Sunny Side of the Street.'' Soon after delivering a surprisingly mature and raw version of ''Stormy Weather,'' she turns around to scat playfully on the Cab Calloway tune ''Zaz Zuh Zaz.''

Tony winner Adriane Lenox (Doubt) displays outrageously sassy comic timing on Sippie Wallace's ''Women Be Wise,'' while Carmen Ruby Floyd initiates an ethereally operatic call-and-response on Duke Ellington's ''Creole Love Call'' with Wynton Marsalis' 16-member Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars orchestra.

Psych's Dule Hill serves as an m.c., popping up with lines from Langston Hughes about the charms of Harlem after midnight and singing tunes like ''I've Got the World on a String,'' which director-choreographer Warren Carlyle stages with an inventive routine featuring five couples dancing with red helium-filled balloons. Hill isn't much of a singer, to be frank, but he's more than adept as a dancer, offering an energetic soft-shoe routine to the Harburg-Arlen tune ''Ain't It the Truth.''

All the dancing is terrific, performed in styles as varied as the music on the program. In ''Hottentot,'' we get a dance duel between the seemingly double-jointed Julius ''iGlide'' Chishom and the acrobatic, handwalking Virgil ''Lil' O'' Gadson. Toward the end of the roughly 90-minute show, Jared Grimes astonishes with a tap-tastic solo to Ellington's ''Tap Mathematician'' and ''It Don't Mean a Thing.''

The production, first conceived by Jack Viertel with music direction by Marsalis, is mostly unchanged from its previous incarnations in 2011 and 2012 as part of the Encores! series at New York City Center. One big difference is the unfortunate addition of tacky and often ill-fitting costumes by Isabel Toledo; Barrino's outfits, including one that seems to be made up entirely of turquoise fringe, are particular eyesores.

But for the most part, After Midnight is a show that's as light on its feet as its very talented ensemble. Be sure to hang around after the curtain call for Ellington's ''Rockin' in Rhythm,'' a kind of it-ain't-overture by Marsalis' incomparable orchestra that is sure to put a spring in your step for days to come. A-

(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com)

Originally posted Nov 03, 2013
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