Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review - After Midnight

Yesterday at lunchtime, I got an unexpected invitation - a Tony voter friend (oh me of little faith, thinking no more invites would be coming my way!) e-mailed and asked if I'd like to accompany him to After Midnight!  I've heard many good things about the show, but it wasn't on my radar to buy tickets. 

When I met my friend at the theater, he picked up the tickets at the box office and inside the envelope was an invitation to have a drink with one of the stars after the show!  Woo hoo!  How exciting!  And what a fun idea.  So I already started watching the show with anticipation...

I found After Midnight to just be a ton of fun.  It isn't brain surgery, it's not even great theater, if you really think about it.  There's no story, no characterizations.  But it is a well-crafted, beautifully performed 90 minutes of song and dance that left a smile on my face.  I did think it went on overlong and I was really ready for that last number, but on the whole, the show went by quickly and was quite enjoyable. 

A revue of popular jazz music from the era of the Cotton Club, After Midnight features songs by Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Cab Calloway and many others.  There are over two dozen songs in the show.  A lot of the orchestral arrangements were the originals.  The orchestra, billed as The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, was amazing.  Each musician seemed to be enjoying the show as much, if not more, than the audience.  They were masterful musicians and played with verve and passion.  Fittingly, they got the last number and last bow of the night.  They were terrific.

photo credit: Matthew Murphy
The perfomers were also terrific - Dule Hill was a charming host and did a nice job with his songs.  Fantasia, who I wish I had seen in The Color Purple, is just a star.  She has command, charisma and she sang the crap out of her songs.  She sang them beautifully in the style in which they were written, yet she also made them her own.  That's not easy to do.  Tony nominee Adriane Lenox also completely rocked the house with her two songs - the audience just ate her up.  I did think some of the costuming was unfortunate, though.  These are beautiful women and their costumes didn't do them full justice, in my opinion.

photo credit: Matthew Murphy
I believe I've mentioned in the past that I love me some tap dancing.  Well, After Midnight has tap dancing and more tap dancing.  I think most of the problems of the world could be solved by tap dancing.  Warren Carlyle has choreographed some amazing numbers and there are some incredible dancers in the cast.  I was most taken by the sensational Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and the electric Jared Grimes.  But really, all of the dancers were fantastic.  I even noticed a dancer I saw at ABT a trillion years ago, Desmond Richardson, who is a hot hot hot dancer.  They all were, but you know me when  a ballet connection comes my way...

After the show was over, my friend and I ran into another friend and we chit-chatted for a bit about the end of the season and about how much we enjoyed The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars.  Their final number really sends you out on a high note and we carried that over into our conversation.  After the mutual friend departed, my friend and I went backstage with the invitation to have a drink.  We were escorted across the theater's stage (whee!  I got a selfie!  I was on a Broadway stage!) and into Dule Hill's dressing room.  He was charming and delightful - he collects bourbon, so he has quite a collection in his dressing room (mainly gifts from fans) and often invites people to join him for an after-show drink.  There were two other couples there, along with a few of the performers.  We all had a shot of a very smoky bourbon and chatted about the show.  I mentioned to Hill that I had seen him in Noise/Funk and Dutchman and was happy to see him back onstage.  We then got into a conversation about Twitter.  How the world always gets back to social media, I'll never know, but that's the wave of the future, I guess!  But a quick drink and chat with a charming actor was a nice way to end a nice evening.  Thanks for inviting me, Tony voter friend!

Were I a Tony voter myself, I still wouldn't vote for After Midnight for best musical (I'll be doing my Tony thoughts and predictions in a later post), but it was a fun evening and I'm glad I got to see it.  Especially from great seats and with a great friend!  Unless something even more unexpected drops into my lap over the weekend, I think that will close out the Broadway season for me.  Tap dancing was not a bad way to go...

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