Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill

There aren't many of us that are old enough, been into jazz long enough, or been lucky enough to have seen Billie Holiday sing. Well, now's your chance. She's been resurrected in the form of Mary Louise Lee and is singing her heart out in Shadow Theatre Company's production of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill.

With a script by Lanie Robertson that has Holiday recounting her life and times in-between numbers, director Jeffrey Nickelson has shaped a fast-paced yet deeply touching portrait of the gifted and tragic jazz chanteuse.

What makes this work is the combination of Lee's vocal and acting talent. At times she imitates Holiday's voice perfectly, and at others gives us a taste of her own incredible four octave range. When not singing, she tells funny and touching stories with equal aplomb, recounts racist incidents, and gives us a taste of Holiday's waning moments as a life-long heroin addict in a small bar in South Philadelphia in 1959.

Doug Roche's accompaniments are stellar. The local professional freelance pianist and teacher also plays Holiday's last husband, Jimmy Powers, cajoling her with musical cues and a few well-chosen words, contributing to the seamless ease of the whole performance.

The company has also produced a scintillating CD containing ten songs from the play, including "Crazy He Calls Me," "God Bless the Child," "T'ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," "Strange Fruit," and "Them There Eyes."

Current shows are selling out. Performances of Shadow Theatre Company's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill are currently scheduled through December 28th, with shows being added as needed to meet the demand. For tickets and current scheduling, call 303-837-9355.

Bob Bows


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