Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Cotton Club Parade: A Celebration of the Music of Duke Ellington Made an Encore Return to City Center for a 6-Show Run
Jazz virtuoso Wynton Marsalis serves as the musical director and he and the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars orchestra provide the musical backdrop and the rhythmic heartbeat for this recreation of the Cotton Club’s floor shows.
This show marks the Broadway debut of Glee’s Amber Riley and, while she stays within her "Mercedes Jones" comfort zone when belting out "On the Sunny Side of the Street", her rendition holds its own against Ella Fitzgerald's earlier version. Other stand-out vocal performers were Joshua Henry (who is also part of the cast of Porgy and Bess), who served as the show’s narrator and tour guide for this evening’s trip though uptown Harlem, and torch singer/vamp (and Tony award winner) Adrienne Lenox. Henry has a strong singing voice (and he delivered a particularly delightful version of "I've Got the World on a String" - a snippet of which can be seen in the video below) and his narration, which he mixes with quotes from Langston Hughes' "Montage of a Dream Deferred", helps paint the picture of Harlem in the 1920's. Lenox serves as a counter-point to Henry's narration about the glories of the night and she nails Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise” along with the sultry "Go Back to Where You Stayed Last Night".
The dancing was what kept the audience riveted as it ranged from from formal to tap to free-form. The tightly choreographed, limb-popping dancing of Jeremiah “Supaman” Haynes and Andrew “Dr. Ew” Carter was simply phenomenal and the duo’s showcase number was “Hottentot”. Both the music and dancing came together on the full cast tour de force finale “Freeze and Melt”.
The night that I was in attendance, the show looked to be at capacity so...if Cotton Club Parade comes back for a second encore next year, I wouldn't wait to get tickets as you might otherwise miss out on what The Times called a "thrilling 90-minute celebration” that “made period jazz come to life with a focused intensity and rhythmic savvy".
Cotton Club Parade