By John Wesley Reed Jr.
Fantasia Barrino, American Idol winner, who went on to play the lead role in Broadway's The Color Purple
, was among the rotating roster of guest stars in After Midnight
, Broadway's hottest new musical, also featuring Dule' Hill, and The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars. Presented by Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director, and Scott Sanders Productions, the production appeared at Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Street, New York, NY February 4 thru February 9, 2014.
From the early 1920s to 1940, the Cotton Club was the showplace for African-American performers in New York. Now, the Harlem landmark and such artists as Lena Horne
, Duke Ellington
, Cab Calloway
, Bessie Smith
and the Nicholas Brothers are just a few being celebrated in a Broadway revue called After Midnight.
David Levering Lewis, History Professor at New York University, and Author of When Harlem Was In Vogue,
reflected, The show is a good replica of evoking the flavor of the place in its prime."
After Midnight began as a collaboration between Wynton Marsalis, Lincoln Center Artistic Director, along with Jack Viertel, Artistic Director of Encores, an organization that puts on concert staging of old musicals. Viertel says the show was inspired by his fascination with Harold Arlen."
Harold Arlen, famous for songs like Stormy Weather" and Over the Rainbow," wrote material for the Cotton Club early in his career, Viertel notes.
Not to take away that Wynton has a lifelong obsession with Duke Ellington; Arlen was writing songs for the Cotton Club while Duke Ellington showcased the house band of the Cotton Club."
After Midnight celebrates life is all about choice, and so is Art." Reproducing the Cotton Club revues, After Midnight features a rotating group of guest stars. Fantasia Barrino, American Idol winner, opened the show, followed by K. D. Lang, Canadian singer.
Warren Carlyle, the show's Director and Choreographer says, The Cotton Club in its heyday had Sunday night guest spots as Judy Garland once performed. There were many great talents of all races who performed there in that era."
Fantasia excited about making her Broadway debut, performed standards like Stormy Weather" in the original big-band arrangements, backed by the electrifying 16-piece band. She was equally intrigued by one of the lesser known tunes, Zah Zuh Zaz" by Cab Calloway.