After Midnight and R Lounge

Best-dressed Broadway musical for us, costumes by Isabel Toledo, was After Midnight, recommendable on the basis of its clothing alone: the bejeweled, fingerless opera gloves, slinky gowns, black tuxedos with black top hats—and white tuxedos with white top hats. It took the Tony for choreography, no surprise. Julius “iGlide” Chisolm and Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson are worth a show of their own, not to mention Karine Plantadit and the synchronized tuxedoed quintet.

Recreation of Harlem’s Cotton Club has been attempted many times, by Martin Scorsese among others. Every other version tempered high times with low seriousness, at least in one tune that hinted at the dark side to artistic life, almost as a corrective to the joy and abandon of the rest. Not so After Midnight, which banishes the blues and is a total, screaming joy at ninety minutes (no intermission).

The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars big band recreates the Duke Ellington sound, which will reverberate for days after you have seen the show. And the singers are perhaps even more amazing than the dancers. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will be taking turns as featured singer. In February, k. d. lang made her well-publicized Bdway debut as After Midnight’s featured performer. 

The night we were there, “American Idol” discovery Fantasia Barrino blew us away with her distinctive renderings, total engagement with music and audience, and blasé, nonchalant way of leaving the stage when she finished. Toledo barely covers Fantasia in a fringed costume that Rihanna might feel comfortable in.

The inspirational, soigné, comic genius Adriane Lenox is the Cotton Club habitué who embodies the spirit of not just After Midnight, but nightclubs everywhere, and is the font of all wisdom in Women Be Wise, by Sippie Wallace. In her two numbers the audience seriously falls in love. Adriane Lenox was new to us, but now we’re dying to see her in the film The Butler.

The singing is worth a show of its own, particularly risqué ballads like Women Be Wise. Creole Love Call, known as “the orgasm song,” sung by Rosena M. Hill Jackson, was as tender as it was shocking. It had more plot than the entire play.  After Midnight has a very loose plot of two of the dancers getting hitched, then one of them dying—though reviving long enough to jump out of the casket and have one last dance. Yes, that is quite a plot. But it’s a bit sketchy—whereas Roseana M. Hill Jackson‘s orgasm had three acts and a couple of subplots.

Julius "iGlide" Chisolm

 R Lounge, in the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square, has that view that you see with the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve. On any night but New Year’s you enjoy an almost reasonably priced, more-than-adequate tasty meal. The chefs work hard to make it memorable, thus the 99-cent homemade potato chips on the menu are unavoidably everyone’s starter. The chips are good but save your appetite for a healthy main course such as seared salmon with Israeli couscous and vegetables.

On an average weeknight office workers—mainly female—share apps and cocktails or even sit alone and talk on their cell phones. When you feel on top of the world you go to R Lounge—or when you need to unwind by yourself, apparently. Women eating alone is a great recommendation for any restaurant. It shows that the place is cool, meets a certain high standard (the ladies’ room is lovely, in fact, with ikebana, an artistic sink, and gentle lighting), and is, moreover, romantic: not a sports bar. And possibly it has a romantic view out the window.

The view comes with no cover charge most days. Maneuvering yourself into the window seat may take some tries. But if you go there on New Year’s Eve, it will cost you a million dollars (actually, one thousand dollars) to sit at that very same table, eating potato chips.