By Matthew Blank
11 Jun 2014
LaBelle, who plays through June 29, succeeds Fantasia Barrino (The Color Purple, "American Idol"), who returned to After Midnight May 13-June 8 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
"Everybody is becoming more knowledgeable about Duke Ellington and his music," LaBelle, who recently recorded a solo jazz album, told Playbill magazine. "It was great music... I've always liked jazz, [but] when I tell people I have a jazz album coming out, they look at me like, 'Why?' Why? Because I love the music."
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).