Originally published on Flavorpill.
It take balls to celebrate Billie Holiday’s centennial by inviting a white drag queen from downtown to sing Lady Day’s songs in one of the most uptown of venues, but that’s exactly what Lincoln Center did at Wednesday night’s American Songbook concert featuring Joey Arias. The intersection of uptown and down, black and white, male and female set the perfect tone for an evening devoted to Holiday, herself a complicated figure too often remembered lately for her struggles with drugs rather than her artistry. Continue reading
Originally published on CastAlbums.org.
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill is one of those shows that feels like it’s been around forever, making regular appearances at small venues around the country whenever a local singing actress wants to flex her chops a bit with a show that’s pre-sold on the name of its subject, Billie Holiday. In reality, the show debuted in 1986 at the Alliance in Atlanta before coming to New York in a well-received off-Broadway production and has been twice recorded before, in 1997 with Gail Nelson in the title role, and in 1998 with Pamela Isaacs.
I had never given much thought to the play itself, structured as a concert during Holiday’s drug-fueled decline, and when it was announced for Broadway with no less than Audra McDonald in the title role, I was frankly surprised she’d bother with the show. But once performances started, it quickly became a hot ticket, and I don’t know anyone who’s seen her performance and not been thrilled. Continue reading