With so much hype of putting A-list celebrities on the marquee and adapting movies and bad literature into musicals and overwrought plays to attempt to boost sales of nearly-$200-Broadway-tickets these days, sometimes all it takes is 90 minutes of scat, a soprano trumpet solo, tap shoes, and an American Idol alumni to ensure a classic night of elegantly rich entertainment.
In just an hour and a half with no intermission, we are transported to 1932 Harlem. With a street lamp, the underground smoky atmosphere of the famed Cotton Club, a sixteen-piece Lincoln Center all-star orchestra (under the artistic direction of 'Mr. Jazz' himself, Wynton Marsalis), and the suave charm of our narrator Dule Hill (of TV's 'Psych' and 'West Wing' fame), the mood is set and this charming musical review starts to sizzle.
As a side note, for what it's worth, sometimes I prefer not to use my brain at the theater or worry about how disappointed I'll be if my high expectations of the supposed 'smash hit' fail to deliver. Most of the time, I want to grin ear-to-ear, shake my shoulders and tap my feet in my smaller-than-an-airplane-theater-seat, just because I'm entertained. So with that...
AFTER MIDNIGHT has no script, no forced momentum to get from scene-to-scene, no 'oh-my-god-that's-so-and-so' Hollywood star, and no indrect correlation to a piece of cinema that Mama Mary and Papa Joe Bob from Iowa can recognize to base their ticket selection on when coming to the concrete jungle. What it does have is all it needs. Heart, talent, rhythm, soul, and a cast full of genuine, raw, emotive Broadway stars (thank you Laura Stanczyk for the great cast) that deliver that night of escape-from-reality that one hopes for.
The cast, the cast, the cast is exceptional. Besides a phenomenal group of vocalists, musicians, tappers and pop-and-lockers, there is the incredible and hopefully-to-be-nominated choreography by Warren Carlyle. Dule Hill charms and surprises with his unknown tap talent. Adriane Lenox whips through her saucy-broad numbers with pure seasoned professionalism. Jared Grimes delivers a tap performance that brings you to your feet, and Fantasia Barrino sizzles. Now I was never a Fantasia Barrino fan because nothing ever connected for me. Her ditzy-high-pitched-speaking-voice, her horrible made-for-television movie and poor attempt to act in 'The Color Purple' never had me on the Fantasia bandwagon. But last Wednesday night, I became a Fantasia Barrino fan for life. When left on a stage in a beautiful gown to sing with her raw emotions, she is simply electric and particlarly stands out vocally with her rendition of "Zaz Zuh Zah" and "Stormy Weather."
This is a show that Broadway needs. An enjoyable night at the theater that will leave you in great spirits with endorphins high and your spirit culturally enriched. Four words...GO. SEE. THIS. SHOW.!
AFTER MIDNIGHT has an open-ended run at the Brooks Atkinson theater and tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.