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Babyface bursts onto B’way scene; Braxton needs to project

Linda Armstrong | 4/3/2014, 12:56 p.m.
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Toni Braxton Photo by David Goodson

The line went down Eighth Avenue to 46th Street, and people were excited as they waited to get into the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on West 47th Street to see multiple Grammy Award winners Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Toni Braxton appear in “After Midnight” on their opening weekend. Babyface took over the role of the narrator, which was formerly performed by Dulé Hill. In his Broadway debut, Babyface was smooth, charming and adorable. He had a great energy and joy that he sustained throughout the 90-minute production. His singing voice was clear and delightful to listen to.

“After Midnight” looks at the heyday of the Cotton Club in Harlem, where you could catch a variety of great acts by marvelous performers, from phenomenal tap numbers to funny songs with lessons to share and old-time classic songs of the era, which was the 1920s. Babyface’s voice was marvelous performing classic numbers like “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Ain’t It de Truth.”

Braxton is a six-time Grammy Award-winning singer, and she is beautiful to behold, but unfortunately, she was also difficult to hear at times. Her sultry, soft voice was drowned out by the live orchestra on a few songs like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” When it came to “Stormy Weather,” my familiarity with the words to the song helped me to know the words I was supposed to be hearing. She needs to work on projection. “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was also hard to understand. However, Braxton did have fun with “Zaz Zuh Zaz,” a call-and-response song.

Adriane Lenox, an original cast member, is still amazing as she sings funny songs with lessons for all like “Women Be Wise” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.”

The tap dancing numbers stood out as some of the best, most exciting choreography you will see on Broadway. Sensational tap dancers abound in this production, including Jared Grimes, Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Karine Plantadit. Then there are also the smooth dance moves of Julius “iGlide” Chisolm. The creativity is explosive!

“After Midnight” was conceived by Jack Viertel. It is directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. Babyface and Braxton appeared through March 30 only. Now, Vanessa Williams has joined the rotating cast, and original guest performer Fantasia will be returning to the show in May. For ticket information, call 212-239-6262.