According to ABC News Radio, LaBelle said, "I have angels working, people that I hope will come to the play and put some money up to keep it alive... This play is so wonderful, so my heart is broken for the cast. Totally. And that Gladys Knight won't get a chance or Natalie Cole won't get a chance to experience this wonderful play."
She added that she is "praying that somebody, a big angel, will come and say, 'Here's enough money to keep it going.'" LaBelle, who expressed the importance of After Midnight — which celebrates the music of legendary artist Duke Ellington — said that she is willing to collect money with buckets after the show and auction off a kiss for $5,000.
The Jazz Age musical revue was to bring in a roster of Grammy Award-winning divas this summer, including Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole. By June 29, After Midnight will have played 19 preview performances and 272 regular performances.
As previously reported, the show's producers, led by Scott Sanders, were hoping to boost ticket sales with a Best Musical Tony win. To stay open through August (when Cole was scheduled to take her turn as guest headliner), After Midnight depended on receiving a contract concession from more than a dozen theatrical unions. That concession would have allowed the Jazz Age musical revue to temporarily shut down over the July 4 week (between guests LaBelle and Knight), but not all of the unions agreed.
The production will close at a financial loss, but investors may recoup if a national tour of the show, which is in discussions, proves to be a success. Jason Robert Brown's Honeymoon in Vegas, seen last year at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, starring Tony nominee Rob McClure, will start performances at the Atkinson this fall.
Production representatives for After Midnight declined to comment on the possibility of the show running through the summer.
Conceived by Jack Viertel and directed and choreographed by 2014 Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle, After Midnight began previews Oct. 18, 2013, and opened to critical praise Nov. 3, 2013. The production was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning for Best Choreography (Carlyle).
After Midnight received an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Choreographer (Carlyle), Drama Desks for Outstanding Revue and Outstanding Choreography (Carlyle) and Astaire Awards for Outstanding Choreographer of a Broadway Show (Carlyle), Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show (Karine Plantadit), Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show (Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards) and Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show (Jared Grimes).
After Midnight, according to press notes, "takes the sexy, smoky glamour of the original Jazz Age and catapults it into a whole new era of heart-pounding, mind-blowing entertainment for modern Broadway audiences. Refracted through a contemporary lens, After Midnight celebrates 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 provide an authentic backdrop for an array of cutting-edge performances by 25 sensational vocalists and dancers, including special guest stars, whose interpretations shatter everything you think you know about music, nightlife and Broadway."
The musical reintroduces the Cotton Club tradition of rotating celebrity guest stars and has featured Vanessa Williams (April 1-May 11), Barrino (Oct. 18, 2013-Feb. 9), four-time Grammy Award winner k.d. lang (Feb. 11-March 9) and Grammy Award winners Toni Braxton and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds (March 17-30).