Review Roundup: AFTER MIDNIGHT Opens on Broadway- All the Reviews!
Producers Scott Sanders and Wynton Marsalis present After Midnight, directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle and featuring the big-band sounds of nine-time Grammy Award-winner Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, After Midnight began previews on Friday, October 18, 2013 at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 W 47th St) and officially opened tonight, November 3, 2013.
The evocative After Midnight will take the sexy, smoky glamour of the original Jazz Age and catapult it into a whole new era of heart-pounding, mind-blowing entertainment for modern Broadway audiences. Refracted through a contemporary lens, After Midnight will celebrate Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club using his original arrangements and performed by a world-class big band of 17 musicians hand-picked by living jazz legend, Wynton Marsalis. The timeless tunes set against a narrative of Langston Hughes poetry will provide an authentic backdrop for an array of cutting-edge performances by 25 sensational vocalists and dancers, including special guest stars, whose interpretations will shatter everything you think you know about music, nightlife and Broadway.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: With all due respect, this is truly an all-star production, and don't you dare think of leaving right after the curtain calls because the biggest stars of the evening are the sensational musicians taking us a bit closer to the midnight hour with a rousing turn at "Rockin' In Rhythm."
Charles Isherwood, New York Times: "After Midnight" does not make much of an attempt to impart any of the Cotton Club history. As the evening's nominal host, Mr. Hill sprinkles the evening with a few snippets of Langston Hughes's poetry, but it's incidental. Instead the focus remains squarely on music and its interpretation, by those amazing musicians, under the snappy baton of the conductor Daryl Waters, and the performers who sing, slide, scat, cartwheel and generally raise a ruckus in front of them.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: There are few things that bring smiles to even the most jaded faces - balloons, blaring trumpets and tap dancers. A new Broadway revue has two - no, make that all three - so no wonder it leaves you feeling lighter than air. "After Midnight," a candy sampler of some two dozen musical numbers that showcase dance, jazz or singing, opened Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre led by musical genius Wynton Marsalis, an endearing Dule Hill as its host and a thrilling guest singer in Fantasia Barrino.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: The paramount requirement for any revue celebrating the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s is stated right there in the Duke Ellington standard, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." And After Midnight has it in abundance, courtesy of a superlative jazz orchestra handpicked by producer Wynton Marsalis from among the best in the business. Ninety minutes of exuberantly entertaining song and dance, this is a show that renders it impossible to keep your toes from tapping. Up first in a series of rotating special guest stars, Fantasia Barrino with her luscious vocals sets the bar high.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: There are gymnastics aplenty, the most memorable coming from Julius "iGlide" Chisolm, of the dance crew RemoteKontrol, and hip-hop artist Virgil J. Gadson, who does handstands during "East St. Louis Toodle-oo." Of the dancers, you'll be particularly taken with Karine Plantadit (a Tony nominee for the Twyla Tharp musical "Come Fly Away"), who emerges from a coffin and later climbs back atop it during a number that includes the pieces "The Gal From Joe's" and "Black and Tan Fantasy."
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: As in old-school revues, "After Midnight" highlights a range of specialty performers. While Carlyle isn't the most imaginative choreographer, you can't help but thrill as his dancers triumph in wildly different styles. So we effortlessly move from Alvin Ailey alums Karine Plantadit and Desmond Richardson (late of Twyla Tharp's "Come Fly Away" and "Movin' Out," respectively) to hip-hop master Virgil "Lil' O" Gadson, who engages in a spirited battle with the rubber-limbed Julius "iGlide" Chisolm. Of course, there's plenty of tap, too. And that, like Duke Ellington's music, never gets old.
Linda Winer, Newsday: To everyone's credit, Barrino is not cordoned off from the company like a traveling VIP. The singer, who catapulted from "American Idol" popularity to Broadway respect in "The Color Purple," primarily does greatest-hits songs -- "Stormy Weather." She has a tangy baby/woman voice, a slow and clear scat and the ability to say a lot with stillness and a pout.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: You have the sense that the show, which currently stars the red-hot Fantasia, did not want to be seen as a historic re-creation, and indeed, the traps there are self-evident. For many of us, hearing the fabulous Adriane Lenox belting out "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night" is better than any clever Broadway conceit. And the notion of fusing old school and new school certainly has an effect of enlivening the former and rooting the latter.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: 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-
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: When Duke Ellington and his orchestra played the Cotton Club, the swells donned their white tie and tails and went uptown to Harlem in limousines. Everyone else took the A train. "After Midnight," a musical revue that Jack Viertel and Warren Carlyle steered through Encores! to this snazzy Broadway production, salutes that fabled era without attempting to re-create it. This stylized treatment of a midnight floorshow at a 1930s jazz club is gorgeously designed to showcase roof-raising performances from top-flight talent - backed up by a 17-piece swing band loaded with brass and holding down the stage.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: In the new Broadway production After Midnight(three and a half out of four stars), which opened Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a big band shares the spotlight with the singers and dancers, moving front and center for several numbers. The Jazz At Lincoln Center All-Stars, as they're billed, were assembled by that group's artistic director, Wynton Marsalis; and you will be struck as much by their intensity, playfulness and sheer joy in making music as you are by their technical virtuosity.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: Called "Cotton Club Parade," it was initially a collaboration between the Jazz at Lincoln Center program and the New York City Center, and was performed at the City Center for brief runs in 2011 and 2012. The emergent "After Midnight" is not your typical Broadway musical. But, taken on its own terms, it's thoroughly entertaining.
Jesse Green, Vulture: If the ensemble dancing never quite rises to the level of the specialty solos and duets, and if one or two concepts for production numbers fizzle, After Midnightis still an unmitigated pleasure. And it may be the best kind of pleasure: the kind that changes with time. (After Barrino leaves the show in February, scheduled guest stars include k.d. lang, Toni Braxton, and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.) Presumably, theatrical archeologists of the future won't have as hard a time rediscovering After Midnight as our era's transcribers did in rescuing the Ellington material. Because this is one for the record books.
David Finkle Huffington Post: Why go on about any of this when the wise thing to do is to advise readers they really ought to stop reading and secure those precious seats. As Langston Hughes insists, nothing good happens to a dream deferred. Therefore, where this dream is concerned, defer no longer. Or as Yip Harburg puts in some crooning mouths during the marvy evening, "Ain't it de solid truth?
Matt Windman, amNY: While there is no plot, many of the production numbers have characters and clever concepts and lead-ins. Dulé Hill ("The West Wing") also delivers some poetic lines by Langston Hughes about Harlem's atmosphere during the period. As staged by Warren Carlyle, "After Midnight" brings lively and snazzy period entertainment to Broadway with phenomenal sound, effervescent movement and a joyous spirit.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: "After Midnight" brings a tonic dose of Harlem's vaunted nightlife to Broadway for about 90 minutes of uninterrupted pleasure wrapped in Isabel Toledo's clingy, feather-crazed costumes for the women and whimsical tails-with-a-twist for the men.