|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Barrino (The Color Purple, "American Idol") opens the show as the musical's first special guest star vocalist and performs through Feb. 9, 2014. The new musical reintroduces the Cotton Club's tradition of welcoming the stars of today in limited engagements throughout its run.
"I always said I didn't think I would ever do Broadway again," Barrino told Playbill.com at the After Midnight press preview. However, when she was approached by producer Scott Sanders, she had been listening to "nothing but jazz, Billie [Holiday and] Ella Fitzgerald" at the time and was inspired to sign on.
What excited the former "American Idol" about the Jazz Age-inspired piece? "[After Midnight] lets the younger generation know where it all started," she said. "Sometimes jazz can be looked over, and people can say 'I don't get it.' I say that you have to sit down, open your ears and listen. Everybody has a part [in] the song — the saxophone, the piano... Everybody has a voice as well as the artist."
"I'm the host. I'm your captain. I'm your pilot," explained Hill, "so I take you along your journey. I'm on the outside looking in. I take you by your hand, and we're weaving... I come in and out of the story throughout the night."
Opening night of After Midnight is set for Nov. 3.
The eclectic cast of performers also includes Julius "iGlide" Chisolm from the dance crew RemoteKontrol (he'll reimagine Harlem's popular 1920's "snakehips" dance); hip hop star Virgil J. Gadson; Tony Award-nominated dancers Plantadit (Movin' Out, Come Fly Away) and Richardson (Fosse, Movin' Out); tap dancers Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Jared Grimes; and vocalists Everett Bradley, Cedric Neal, T. Oliver Reid, Monroe Kent, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rosena M. Hill Jackson and Bryonha Marie Parham.
Dancers for the evening are Marija Abney, Phillip Attmore, Christopher Broughton, Taeler Elyse Cyrus, C.K. Edwards, Bahiyah Hibah, Erin Moore, Justin Prescott, Monique Smith, Daniel Watts, Danielle Herbert, Allysa Shorte and David Jennings.
Director-choreographer Warren Carlyle (Chaplin, Follies) and fashion duo Isabel and Ruben Toledo, who designs costumes, join Wynton Marsalis (Jazz at Lincoln Center's nine-time Grammy and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning artistic director) — who hand-picked the big band of 17 musicians — to create the atmosphere of the famed Harlem nightclub in the 1920s and 1930s.
The band includes 17 soloists and ensemble players, including Mark Gross, Godwin Louis, Daniel Block, Andrew Farber and Kurt Bacher on woodwinds; Gregory Gisbert, Bruce Harris, Alfonso Horne and James Zollar on trumpets; Wayne Goodman, Arthur Baron and James Burton III on trombones; Adam Birnbaum on piano; James Chirillo on guitar; Jennifer Vincent on bass; and Alvester Garnett on drums.
Here's how producers Sanders and Marsalis bill the production: "Jazz is a state of mind. It's a structure for innovation, forward momentum and freedom. The evocative new musical After Midnight will take the sexy, smoky glamour of the original Jazz Age and catapult it into a whole new era of heart-pounding, mind-blowing entertainment for modern Broadway audiences. Refracted through a contemporary lens, After Midnight will celebrate 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 will provide an authentic backdrop for an array of cutting-edge performances by 25 sensational vocalists and dancers, including special guest stars, whose interpretations will shatter everything you think you know about music, nightlife and Broadway. Welcome to the new Jazz Age."
After Midnight includes pieces by jazz composers of the time, including Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Digga Digga Doo"), Harold Arlen ("Stormy Weather," "I've Got the World on a String," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea") and Duke Ellington ("Rockin' in Rhythm," "Cotton Club Stomp," "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Creole Love Call").
After Midnight marks the Broadway debut of fashion designer Isabel Toledo (costumes), who is known for creating Michelle Obama's first inauguration day dress. Ruben is an award-winning artist who renders all of Isabel's designs and is the author of "Style Dictionary."
"Cues from the past inspire us to create something new and singular," said Toledo in a previous statement. "The opportunity to delve into the theatre world via the sultry innovative nightlife scene of the jazz age was too tantalizing too pass up. Jazz is deeply entrenched in my creative process, it all starts with rhythm."
After Midnight is produced by Scott Sanders Productions, and Wynton Marsalis, in association with Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group; Stephen and Ruth Hendel; Tom Kirdahy.
Tickets for After Midnight can be purchased at Telecharge.com.
For more information, visit AfterMidnightBroadway.com.