PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: After Midnight — Cotton in a Forest of Evergreens

By Harry Haun
04 Nov 2013

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The after-party and press-grilling was held — right next door to the theatre at the Copacabana, and revelers quickly filled all three floors and the rooftop penthouse. Fantasia Barrino, who won a Theatre World Award for The Color Purple (unprecedented for a replacement performer, by the way), admitted she was surprised to be back on Broadway and hadn't planned on it, but was a sucker for Marsalis' insistence. "And you are surrounded by people who love jazz. You can't pass it up."

She star-powered her four big numbers — "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Stormy Weather," "On the Sunny Side of The Street" and "Zaz Zuh Zaz" — and will continue until Feb. 11, 2014, when her track will be taken over by k.d. lang, who will continue until March 9. After that, it's anybody's guess, but Shirley Bassey is rumored to be warming up.

Lang's (52nd) birthday present to herself was to attend the opening night blowout. Producer Spelling admitted the Cotton Club was way before her time, "but I've been to Harlem many times. I used to make dolls for the Madame Alexander company."

This is her fourth Broadway musical in a row, following Nice Work If You Can Get It, How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises. "But I'm a jazz lover. I wanted to tap and dance like Fred Astaire when I was little. Still do."

Tommy Tune also missed the Cotton Club prime. "I went to a thing that was called the Cotton Club, but it didn't feel like the Cotton Club. After Midnight felt like the Cotton Club. It spoke to me directly — right to my heart, my soul and my feet."

Adriane Lenox, who has Tony-winning chops for acting (in Doubt), makes a triumphant return to musical-comedy here. "Ain't Misbehavin' was my first Broadway show. It's full circle for me. I'm coming back to this sort of thing."

As a kind of Cotton Club version of Fanny Brice, she scores two bullseyes — "Women Be Wise" and "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night" — playing it with the indifferent resignation of Albert Hunter singing "Handyman."

"It's that whole school," she said, "Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters, Pearl Bailey, all those great singers who did a lot of talking and ad-libbing in between. That's what it's all about. Absolutely!"

Desmond Richardson, a Tony nominee for Fosse, and Karine Plantadit, a Tony nominee for Come Fly Away, are dancing show-stoppers. Her big moment comes as a lively life force who climbs out of her coffin on the way to be buried ("Black and Tan Fantasy"). "I adore doing this show," she gushed. "I want to do it every day, eight times a week. I really do." Richardson's highlight is "The Mouche," which he found "sexy and mysterious and all those good things. I'm having a good time with it."

"The Mouche" happens to be narrator Hill's favorite number. "I love that number so much — there are so many phenomenal numbers in the show, but that one I love."