Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Through August 31, $60-$147
Initially conceived for New York City Center’s Encores! by series artistic director Jack Viertel, After Midnight is now lighting up Broadway, bringing Harlem to the Great White Way in a dazzling display of music and dance. The Brooks Atkinson Theatre has been transformed into the famed jazz clubs of the Golden Age, the Savoy, the Cotton Club, and the Sugar Cane, as a talented cast of more than two dozen singers and dancers shimmy the night away to the tunes of Duke Ellington. The show is hosted by Dulé Hill (Stick Fly, Psych), who is first seen in a too-cool white suit, leaning against a lamppost, poetically introducing the audience to a Harlem night to remember. Backed by the sixteen-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, the performers strut their stuff for ninety glorious, uninterrupted minutes, playing directly to the audience as if in an intimate nightclub. Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rosena M. Hill Jackson, and Bryonha Marie Parham are caught “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” Adriane Lenox warns that “Women Be Wise” and later declares “Go Back to Where You Stayed Last Night,” and Julius “iGlide” Chisolm and Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson slide their way through “Hottentot Tot.” Hill carries a red balloon in “I’ve Got the World on a String,” while he joins Daye, Cedric Neal, Monroe Kent III, and T. Oliver Reid for “Ain’t It de Truth?” highlighted by playful vertical and horizontal group shuffles.
Director and choreographer Warren Carlyle (Chaplin, Finian’s Rainbow) channels Alvin Ailey’s classic “Night Creature” throughout the evening, the moves and grooves often made bigger than life with Isabel Toledo’s stunning costumes. Among the standout dancers are Karine Plantadit (Come Fly Away), who solos on “Black and Tan Fantasy,” and Phillip Attmore and Daniel J. Watts, who have a heated tap-off. The show features several spots for a special guest; through February 9, Fantasia Barrino (American Idol, The Color Purple) makes a star turn singing such sultry numbers as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Stormy Weather,” with k. d. lang taking over February 11 and Babyface and Toni Braxton on March 18. While other current Broadway jukebox musicals — Beautiful, Motown, and A Night with Janis Joplin — struggle when they focus on the narrative, the story of After Midnight is the grandeur of the music itself, resulting in hot evening of jumping, jiving, and wailing, Harlem style.