Friday, May 16, 2014

New York, Day Two - "After Midnight"

I'm not generally one for revues.  Sure, a well-selected collection of songs can make for an entertaining evening, but it's something for a cabaret, or off-Broadway setting.  How can a revue hold its own against big Broadway fare, the musicals that usually make up the nominees for Tony Awards?

Well, the cast and musicians of "After Midnight" changed my mind.  This is more than a revue - it's a show.  And a terrific one, at that.

There's no real story here.  Host Dulé Hill sets the scene with a few poetic lines about Harlem after midnight in the 30s, but beyond that, it's all song and dance. But what song and what dance!  Guest star (the show brings in a new guest star every couple of months or so - I mourn over missing k. d. lang's run) Fantasia Barrino shows how prescient the "American Idol" voters were when they awarded her that show's crown several years ago.  This young woman can sing like an angel (the avenging kind) and has real star power.  

Fantasia has only four numbers, but the rest of the cast more than make up the difference.  To cite just one example, Adriane Lenox's version of Sippie Wallace's "Women Be Wise" alone is worth the price of admission.

I'm also not generally a big fan of tap dancing, but I've never seen it done with more athleticism and artistry than they do here.  And though dubstep is a dance style far more recent than 1932, I'm delighted the producers included Julius "iGlide" Chisolm in the cast.  His liquid moves are mesmerizing.  

And I haven't even gotten to the band yet.  This is not just any band, but The Jazz and Lincoln Center All-Stars, Wynton Marsalis's upper west side ensemble.  To say these boys can play their instruments  is like saying LeBron James can shoot a little hoop or Albert Einstein had a few interesting thoughts about physics. Three trumpeters, all amazing, plus a reed section that will knock you into the back wall and a rhythm section to keep the beat driving forward.  Please sir, may I have some more?

90 minutes absolutely flew past.  When you leave a theater wanting more - much more - you know you've seen a great show.  Excuse me, great revue.

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