At the press preview for the new Broadway musical revue After Midnight, which began performances Oct. 18 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Fantasia Barrino admitted that she was a bit nervous before offering members of the press a sneak peek of "Stormy Weather," the 1933 tune by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler that she performs in the show. Maybe it was because she holds the music of the Jazz Age so close to heart. Maybe it was because two of her musical inspirations, Lena Horne and Billie Holiday, left their individual marks on the tune. Maybe it was because Barrino hadn't planned to return to Broadway after she left The Color Purple in 2008.
However, when producer Scott Sanders explained that After Midnight would explore the music of the 1920s and 30s and celebrate Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club, Barrino couldn't turn down the offer. The actress is the first in a series of headliners slated to grace the Brooks Atkinson stage throughout the show's run. Following Barrino, After Midnight will welcome Grammy Award winner k.d. lang and Grammy Award-winning artists Toni Braxton and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. Playbill.com caught up with the show's first star at the After Midnight meet-and-greet. She chatted about being given the chance to explore her favorite generation — Jazz.
You're coming back to Broadway. It's not about the role this time, but more about the music. What excites you about being able to free yourself and explore this music?
Fantasia Barrino: It's totally different from The Color Purple — musically — and my role [in After Midnight] is not as grueling as playing Celie. I always said I didn't think I would ever do Broadway again. They would ask me, and I would say, "I don't think so." About a week before [producer] Scott Sanders called me, I was listening to nothing but jazz, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway. I said, "I'm fasting from the radio. I don't want to hear no new school. I just want to go back and hear classic, old-school jazz music." My manger called and said, "Scott Sanders called. They said they have another play, and they want you to listen to what they're saying and see if you want to do it." So I came to New York and [we] went out to eat, and I said, "Tell me more, Scott." And, he said, "We're tapping into the 40s, 50s, 60s, Billie Holiday…" I said, "Stop right there!" He said, "What?" I said, "That's strange because that's all that I've been listening to." For me, it's like I [didn't] have to pray about it or think about it… It's like I was preparing myself before he asked me… To be a part of something so great.
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