Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill is playing at Circle in the Square located at 1633 Broadway. It runs ninety minutes with no intermission. The musical closes August 2, 2014.
Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan April 7, 1915- July 17, 1959) was an American Jazz singer and song writer. Several of her standard songs were, “God Bless the Child”, “Don’t Explain”, “Fine & Yellow “and Lady Sings the Blues”. She is also famous for singing “Easy Living”, “Good Morning Heartache” and “Strange Fruit”.
Audra McDonald has won six Tony Awards for, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (2014), “Porgy & Bess” (2012),” A Raisin in the Sun ”(2004), “Ragtime”(1998), “Master Class”(1996) and “Carousel”(1994). She was nominated for a Tony Award for “110 in the Shade” (2005) and “Marie Christine” (2000). Audra won two Grammy Awards in 2008 for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording for “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogonny”. She is known for the television show “Private Practice”.
Lonny Price is the director. Mr. Price was nominated for a Tony Award for “Class Act” (2001).
Esosa is the costume designer. He was nominated for a Tony Award for “Porgy & Bess” (2012).
Robert Wierzel did the light design. In 2010 he was nominated for a Tony Award for “Fela”.
The place is a small bar in Philadelphia. It is midnight, March 1959.
Billie Holiday (Audra McDonald) seems to be happy. In between songs, she tells the audience about her life. As the story goes on her happiness seems to disappear. Billie sips scotch more and more. There is a bar past the audience on stage. No one is there to refill her glass. She helps herself to a bottle of vodka, two glasses full. On her way back to the stage she stumbles. After singing another song she leaves the stage stumbling down the steps to the audience, almost falling into one of the patrons lap. Billie’s face has such anguish on it. When she returns she has her dog Pepi (Roxie) in in her arms. Pepi is only on stage for one song.
One thing we learn about Billie is that she took the rap for a friend. She puts her friend’s drugs in her suit case and gets caught. Billie does time in jail. Since she now has a felony record she cannot get a cabaret license in New York. That is her livelihood.
The stage is in a u shape. Audra is at the top with her piano player Jimmy Powers (Shelton Becton), drummer and base. Three steps down are the audience sitting with small table in front of them. Behind them is a bar. Before the show a waiter come around filling their glasses.
Audra does a breathing taking job as Billie. She sounds and sings just like her. She deserves getting the Tony Award. Audra was so good it put chills down you spin, it felt like you were actually hearing the real Billie Holiday.
The lighting was great. Audra gown is white. With different colors on the gown it looks like she changed gowns.
This is a must see show. It was so good.
Billie died four months after this performance on July 18, 1959. She died of cirrhosis and heart failure in a hospital in Harlem.
Review by Rozanna Radakovich.
Photos by Annazor.
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