'After Midnight' Brings on the Divas

Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole
Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole
 AP Images

NEW YORK -- A day after notching up an impressive seven Tony Award nominations, including best musical, direction and choreography, After Midnight has lined up three multi-award winning music stars to join the show's roster of special guest vocalists this summer.

Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole will shimmy into the spotlight in the Jazz Age salute to the Harlem Renaissance, which revisits Duke Ellington's years at the legendary Cotton Club, with his original arrangements played by an onstage big band of jazz musicians handpicked by Wynton Marsalis.

That illustrious new trio of guest vocalists boasts collective album sales of close to 300 million worldwide.

THEATER REVIEW: After Midnight

LaBelle will appear in the show June 10-29, followed by Knight July 8-Aug. 3 and Cole Aug. 5-31. The iconic divas will follow a return engagement by Fantasia Barrino, who drew rave reviews as the first of the production's rotating roster of guest artists. She returns for the run-up to the Tony Awards, appearing from May 13 through June 8.

Other guests who have performed stints in the show since it opened last fall are k.d. lang, Toni Braxton, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Vanessa Williams, who is currently appearing through May 11. In addition to participating in the full-ensemble number during the show's finale, guests have a handful of solo spots, including "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Stormy Weather," "Zaz Zuh Zaz" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street."

One of the best-reviewed musicals of the Broadway season, After Midnight is a high-energy song-and-dance celebration threaded together by the show's host, played by Dule Hill, using evocative excerpts from the poetry of Langston Hughes.

PHOTOS: Tony Awards 2014: The Nominees

In addition to being nominated for best musical, director-choreographer Warren Carlyle landed Tony nods in both those categories. The production also earned nominations for featured actress Adriane Lenox, for Isabel Toledo's costume designs and for lighting and sound.

In the best musical category, After Midnight is up against A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Honoring the best of the Broadway season, the Tony Awards will be aired live Sunday, June 8, on CBS from Radio City Music Hall. Hugh Jackman, who won a 2004 Tony for lead actor in a musical in The Boy From Oz, returns to host the ceremony for the fourth time.

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