Well ladies and gents, I can say from personal experience that broadway’s spectacle, After Midnight, absolutely deserved it’s award for 'Best Choreography' at this year’s Tony Awards. I was very lucky to see Dulé Hill, Patti Labelle, and the rest of this amazing cast perform on their second to last show date.
Now I promise I’ll talk about the costumes, but can we PLEASE just talk about Little Miss Labelle for a second? This woman is 70 years old and she is still out there lookin’, and singin’, and struttin’ her stuff like she is 30! I was absolutely blown away. Patti, I want to be you when I grow up.
For those who have not seen the show, After Midnight is a Broadway production of City Center Encores' Cotton Club Parade. The musical celebrates Duke Ellington’s years at the Cotton Club using his original arrangements and performed by a world-class big band of 17 musicians. So basically the show is one big tribute to the Jazz Era in Harlem, and all the things that happened AFTER the sun went down.
The cast members’ and the orchestra’s energy filled the entire theatre to the point where I was ready to get up and join in on the party. When you have stars like Patti Labelle headlining your show, you KNOW the singing will be phenomenal but, just as the Tony’s promised, the dancing was equally as breathtaking. I saw tap dancing like I have never seen before, of which I would not have believed possible if I hadn’t see it with my own eyes. AND I was pleasantly surprised that Broadway has started to showcase animation style dancing through this show! (For those of you who watch SYTYCD…. you know exactly what I’m talking about ;) )
As you can see from this photo, Miss Labelle’s costumes were all 1920’s flapper fab! As if the crowd needed MORE reason to erupt when she stepped foot on stage, Patti’s dresses were snug in all the right places, and showed us that those hips can move mountains!
Another show-stopping costume set included the bird-like showgirl ensemble worn by Bahiyah Hibah (left), Taeler Cyrus (center), and Marija Juliette Abney (right). Each of the dancer’s costumes were designed similarly to give the audience a sense of unity, yet each were unique in shape so the audience could easily distinguish each dancer and her movements. I thought this was very interesting considering that showgirl costumes (like those that are worn by dance groups such as the Rockettes) are typically designed to be identical.
Of course, we can’t forget about the men! Toledo took a similar route with a group of three men who came out in slick suites and wide brimmed hats to sing a hilarious rendition of "Diga Diga Doo." The design of the mens’ suits were almost completely identical; however, the three were distinguished from each other by the bright colors of their attire. For example, the man who had an exceptionally low singing range wore a suit and hat completely washed in dark purple. Together, each unique member of the trio complimented each other very well in both sound and style.
You know, I just need to acknowledge just HOW difficult costuming for a Broadway show really is! I can’t even fathom how much time goes into each piece, but the costume design is SO important. Unlike television and film where a director can zoom in on a character to attract the audience’s attention to the character, live theatre does not have that capability. Therefore, in order to keep the audience focused on the most significant events, the director, actor, AND design team must all work together to create focus. Costumes play a huge part in directing the attention of audiences. For example, there was one specific dress in the show that I thought succeeded in this effort to direct focus. In one scene, three girls came out wearing slim black,white, and champagne colored dresses with white berets on the top of their heads. The costume was very french, but with a touch of jazz. The black was cut perfectly onto the sides of the dress, making the ever-so-small silhouettes of the dancers look even smaller! In addition, the movement of the fabric was phenomenal. During the dance, the girls spun around while holding red balloons, and kicked their legs high into the air. The dresses draped their bodies perfectly and seemed to be easy to dance in, which MUST have been a top priority for the show. So, bravo Toledo! Not only did you make them look amazing, but you made it so they stole the attention from the whole number!
Unfortunately the show is closed now, so if you haven’t seen it yet… I’m afraid you missed out on quite a show. Regardless, I encourage you, if you are close to the city, GO SEE A BROADWAY SHOW! If you are a student, you can go and get student rush tickets on the day of the show for a RIDICULOUSLY low price! Personally, going to Broadway is one of my most favorite things to do. Theatre exposes us to so much culture, and I truly believe you can learn something from every show you see whether it be something about human nature, or even something about history! And the best part is…. you are laughing (and I guess sometimes crying…. but in a totally good way) the whole way through.
Stay tuned for more Broadway reviews to come!