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

By Harry Haun
04 Nov 2013

Adriane Lenox
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

He has a few terrific moments himself. "I'm really having a blast here," he admitted. "I get a chance to do a little bit of everything. During rehearsals, we didn't get to see all the different acts. Warren had it all separate. I'd work with Warren, and we'd go through the words, but not 'till he started piecing things together did I realize what I was really speaking about or how it leads into the next thing. When it all came together, it was really an eye-opener. I said, 'Wow! This is something special.'"

With Julius "iGlide" Chisolm, his nickname is the operative word. He glides through the air with the greatest of ease — as a snake. My blessings on his chiropractor! He's also paired with an equally limber and lively Virgil "Lil 'O' Gadson, a five-foot-two fireball who attributes his advanced comic timing to "listening to a lot of different music and speaking with my body. Warren helped me bring that out even more."

Jared Grimes, whose aggressive dancing is spotlighted with Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," has been with the show since the City Center liftoff. "I had different music back then," he said. "Man, it's like a party on stage every time we do it."

Another who dates back from the initial production is Carmen Ruby Floyd, who undulates through a sultry Ellington melody, "Creole Love Song," without a discernible word of English. She does, however, seem to be having significant intercourse with somebody in the horn section. "The first year it was actually Wynton," she recalled, "but for this long a run he couldn't be a part of it, so Greg Gisbert took over. Before the show, it's, 'What are you going to give me? Make it saucy, make it sassy.' Or if I'm feeling sad, it's different. It depends on the day. Obviously, tonight I was feeling amazing, so that's what you got. Sometimes, when I'm having a bad day, you can feel it. No matter what, it's a haunting melody, so you can take it as sad or you can take it as rich and beautiful or very sensual. It changes nightly. The melody is obviously still the same, but if the audience is giving me something or if I'm feeling something — the message might be a little different."

Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, who has the distinction of having been Michael Jackson's tap-dance teacher, taps up a couple of major storms in the show. "I have two big numbers in the show — 'The Skrontch' and 'Raisin' the Rent' — and I think they are very different, and I have a ball doing both of them. Warren is a sweetheart. He just brings it out of you, and it's very secretive. It's all subliminal. 'How did he make that happen?' Before we know it, we're dancing on stairs, we're singing where we don't normally sing, we're doing walkovers. It's been an amazing experience."

The diminutive broadcasting giant, Barbara Walters, sashayed into the theatre for her first look-see at this idealized replica of Harlem's musically historic club. "The only club I went to into those days was The Latin Quarter. My father owned it!"

Clay Aiken sped by all the print people, professing he was late for his date. A tad more heartbreaking, Hugh Jackman bolted through like he was perfecting his now-you-see-him-now-you-don't disappearing act from his forthcoming musical Houdini.

Wynton Marsalis
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Unsurprisingly, Andre De Shields was doing his wearing-of-the-red routine, which he has been doing since he did The Devil in Damn Yankees! at Long Island's John W. Engeman Theatre — "even longer," he insisted. He is currently contending for a Jeff Award in Chicago for his roof-raising show-stopping in The Jungle Book. "I got an opportunity to close Act I because one day in rehearsal Mary Zimmerman mused out loud, 'How can you close Act I?' And I said, 'Pick me, Mary, pick me.' She did. The show is in Disney storage in Rochester because they're busy opening Aladdin right now [March 20 at the New Amsterdam]. Then, we'll see what happens..."

Apparently, the defense was resting over the Golden because Tonya Pinkins and Patrick Page, both of A Time to Kill, showed up for the opening — she with her son, Miles Kelly, and he with Kissy Simmons. "We were in The Lion King together for almost five years," he explained. "She was the most spectacular Nala they ever had. She then played it in Las Vegas. When you see all the buses with the huge Lion King ads, that's her face."

Justin Guarini and Condola Rashad, of Broadway's Romeo and Juliet, also came over after their matinee. Janis Joplin and Berry Gordy were in attendance in the form of the actors now playing them on Broadway — Mary Bridget Davies in A Night With Janis Joplin and Brandon Victor Dixon in Motown. Joplin finally gets her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Nov. 4, and Gordy is honored for his lifetime achievement by Ebony Magazine.

While his hubby, Terrence McNally, spent his 75th birthday hovering over a tech of his And Away We Go at the Pearl Theatre, After Midnight associate producer Tom Kirdahy escorted to the show the star of McNally's next Broadway opus, Tyne Daly.

Also present: Norm Lewis, busy rehearsing Sondheim's A Bed and a Chair for a City Center launch Nov. 13; Rosie Perez; darlin' Darlene Love; actress Mary-Louise Parker, a Snow Goose from across 47th Street; Tim Federle, Broadway dancer-turned-author of "Better Nate Than Ever" and "Tequila Mockingbird"; Susan L. Schulman, publicist-turned-author of "Backstage Pass to Broadway"; Kandi Burruss, sassy representative of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"; Allison Blackwell, who plays a Joplinaire and the Aretha Franklin influence in Joplin's life; Jessie Mueller and Jake Epstein, back from their Frisco tryout of Beautiful, which will open Jan. 5 at the Sondheim with them as songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin; "Psych" series regulars James Roday and Timothy Omundson; Hair and Spring Awakening's Kyle Riabko, a singer from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!; and soul singer Freddie Jackson.