Anika Noni Rose and Tramell Tillman headline the Classic Stage Company revival of the wartime musical “Carmen Jones.”
Joan Marcus

During these dog day afternoons, there’s no better place off to cool off, relax and spend time with 200 like-minded theater-lovers who would rather chill than sweat out the season.

Fast forward to a tiny space on 13th Street, where Classic Stage Company (CSC) is now presenting a revival of the musical “Carmen Jones.”

It sets the right temperature for fun.

Ironically, a film version made in 1954 recently ran on the Fox channel devoted to movies!

Starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge with Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll and Brock Peters with an all-black cast, that film version of the 1943 Broadway play — scored by Oscar Hammerstein — was directed by Otto Preminger.

This latest outing, with Anika Noni Rose in the starring role with a brilliant cast featuring Clifton Duncan, David Aron Damane, Erica Dorfler, Andrea Jones-Sojola, Justin Keyes, Lindsay Roberts, Soara-Joye Ross, Lawrence E. Street and Tramell Tillman in a carnal–crazed presentation under the direction of John Doyle.

Doyle delivers, without allowing time for an intermission to exhale, the cool classic and compelling love story about Southern comfort, star-crossed lovers, lust, love, a triangular affair and a host of other telling topics that not only breezes by with nuances but sizzles with tantalizing heat from gestures. Except for the fact there is no curtain to raise and the play is staged in the round by a cast of 10, the storyline remains intact and the music as vibrant as ever.

No spoiler alerts required.

Just a note that “Stand Up & Fight When You Hear the Bell” is just as riveting as when Bailey and the rest of the cast wailed the impassioned lyrics.

Rose as Jones is erotically captivating and sensually appealing as the tanned tantalizing character that enticed Belafonte’s Joe.

It is almost unimaginable that any set designer could transform a parachute factory in South Carolina, a military base there, a nightclub, a train, a Chicago apartment, a bushy outside location, a boxing ring, a country club and a myriad other locations from such a small space in the middle of a floor. Scott Pask did it.

And Shelton Becton, music director, and Joseph Joubert, music supervisor ingeniously satiates the soul delivering from an overhead space-challenged portal.

Bill T. Jones, the consistent winning choreographer works wonders with little space, light and simple repetitions to transport audiences to a time and space when soldiers hungered and thirsted for more than rations and a pass into town. To see Carmen slowly twirl to a tune without twerking to a beat is creatively magnificent.

Stupendous! Wonderful! Enchanting! Adjectives much too inadequate to apply to this way-off-Broadway production of a musical revival from the war years of the 1940s. Stellar! Superlative! Spectacular! Add those and still short on kudos for the summer’s best attraction.

Carmen is back and beautiful.

The cast of the Classic Stage Company revival of the wartime musical “Carmen Jones,” starring Anika Noni Rose and Tramell Tillman.
Joan Marcus

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