Monday night at the legendary Apollo Theater: dozens of singers, musicians, and actors poured into Apollo for the premiere of Kasi Lemmons’ “Black Nativity,” a big warm-hearted gospel holiday musical. Stars Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson and Jennifer Hudson were there as well as rocker Sting and wife Trudie Styler (who produced the film for Fox Searchlight with partner Celine Rattray), Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, Bassett’s Tony Award winning husband Courtney B. Vance, director Lemmons and her actor-director husband Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Then over to Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster for the most delicious fried chicken and other Southern fixings. But the best part of the night was the teen gospel choir brought by the eminent Harlem teacher and playwright Vy Higginsen. They sang in the downstairs VIP room, where Antonio Banderas– in town to get an award– jumped up from his seat and tried to join the group. “You know I sing,” said the Tony winning Broadway star of “Nine,” and the film of “Evita.” Yes, we know.
Meanwhile Sting hung out with with Griffith–they are old friends dating back to their classic film “Stormy Monday” (rent it if you can). Griffith looks like a million bucks. She told me she’s very excited about daughter Dakota Johnson’s career jump in “50 Shades of Grey.” Dakota is the third generation of actors in that family, of course. Grandma is famed Hitchcock actress Tippi Hedren.
Styler, just finished performing in “The Seagull” downtown to raves, clapped along to the gospel group between Whitaker and his rockin’ wife Keisha. Because they were trapped against the wall by a big table, stylist Philip Bloch offered waiter services so everyone could get the famous Red Rooster Mac and Cheese.
PS Look for the first ever movie performance by Grace Gibson in “Black Nativity.” She’s the daughter of the stunning actress Lynn Whitfield, who came with her daughter.