Theater archives

After Midnight Lets It All Hang Out


Everything about After Midnight, the nightclub floor show transplanted from City Center’s Encores series that’s passing itself off as a musical, is appealing, especially the work of designers John Lee Beatty, Isabel Toledo, and Howell Binkley. There’s no book to speak of; Dulé Hill speaks a few lines cribbed from the poetry of Langston Hughes. But that’s just as well. The music — Duke Ellington’s arrangements from Harlem’s Cotton Club and witty selections from the American songbook orchestrated by David Berger — and the dancing, ably squeezed by director Warren Conover into a narrow sliver of stage in front of Beatty’s rolling bandstand cradling the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, do the work.

High points include Adriane Lenox’s rendition of “Women Be Wise” (a raunchy anthem by the late Texas blueswoman Sippie Wallace); tap and b-boy stylings by Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards, Jared Grimes, Julius “Glide” Chisolm, and Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson; the hapless beauty of dancer Karine Plantadit; and the crooning of Fantasia Barrino, guest star in this top-flight boîte (other singers, including k.d. lang, will rotate in as the show runs and runs). Evoking Depression-era Manhattan, Toledo’s over-the-top gowns, snappy suits, and feathered burlesque fantasies produce a class act that’s not afraid to get funky, with a welcome flash of trash.