“After Midnight” Brings the Jazz Age to Broadway

January 22, 2014 at 1:11 pm

This season on the PBS hit Downton Abbey, a new character joins the cast who brings the music and style of the Jazz Age to life. Today, jazz music is taking over Broadway in the new production of After Midnight. Meet the director and choreographer and one of the show’s lead dancers who discuss how, through the ages, jazz has had an impact on culture both here and abroad.

After Midnight is a review of the 1930s Jazz Age, a musical adventure that transports viewers to the nexus of the Harlem Renaissance, the Cotton Club. Designed as a tribute to this artistic era, the production combines spoken word, dance and song to recreate this scene of creative expression, experimentation and performance. After Midnight highlights pieces by the legendary composer and bandleader, Duke Ellington, as well as the poetry of writer and Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes.

The production was first conceived by Jack Viertel, the Artistic Director of City Center, who brought on Wynton Marsalis, the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and Warren Carlyle, who became the Director and Choreographer of After Midnight. When asked where they began, Carlyle replied that, “The three of us put together a playlist. We just battered it back and forth a little bit and eventually came up with something that we thought would be good running water for the show. And then I went to work in the studio and created 27 musical numbers or musical moments.”

And while these 27 musical numbers do not include a traditional musical narrative, they have gotten rave reviews from audiences for the last several months. Lead dancer Karine Plantadit commented that in many ways she prefers the unconventional storytelling that After Midnight offers.

“If the audience can sit back and enjoy this ride without having this preconceived idea of what it should be, how the story is being told…we’ve got the opportunity to shake the box a little bit,” she said. “Jazz, which the show is based on, is not usual. It’s unconventional and impromptu,” she added, noting that the show pays a proper structural and emotional tribute to the musical genre it employs.

Carlyle agreed, adding that, “I didn’t want to create something that had already been done. I wanted to create our perfect version of it and when we turn the lights out at the end of the night to feel like, ‘Oh it’s gone, I wish it was still here, I wish we could still have it!’ I wanted to create something so elegant and so beautiful that we start to want to get dressed up to go to the theater.”