Fantasia Barrino is preparing to make her return to Broadway in the jazz-age musical revue After Midnight, which is set during the height of Duke Ellington's reign at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, New York. The Grammy winner will lead the show's ensemble, five years after she tread the boards as adversity conquering Celie in the Tony-nominated musical adaptation of Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Broadway.com caught up with Barrino at a meet-and-greet for After Midnight and found out how she's anticipating her bounce back to the Great White Way.
"It feels good, but scary at the same time," said Barrino, who begins performances as the first special guest star in the Warren Carlyle-directed production on October 18. "I'm a very emotional person, so I tend to embody these roles and carry them with me." Barrino will perform several standards in the show, which weaves together not only Ellington's timeless songs but also those by his peers. At the meet-and-greet, Barrino performed the impassioned classic "Stormy Weather," which Ethel Waters first sang at Cotton Club in 1933 and was made famous by Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. "If you listen to the lyrics, these women were in a lot of pain, there were dark moments in their lives," she said.
Barrino revealed that she was channeling the same emotional energy she mustered to play Celie in The Color Purple into performing these heartrending songs. "Playing Celie was totally different for me because she was a young lady who went through so many things at such a young age," she said. "For me to carry that, as well as Fantasia's things, it was a little tough. It was overload." However, Barrino says making her Broadway debut helped her learn much about herself. "I'm so glad I did it! [Celie] taught me a lot and she prepared me for this, as well. Now I know how to tap in and tap out."
You can see Fantasia Barrino, as well as Dulé Hill, Tony winner Adriane Lenox and an orchestra of 17 world-class musicians hand-picked by nine-time Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis, in After Midnight at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, beginning preview performances on October 18. Opening night is set for November 3.