by Ebony, Concierge
Last week I had the awesome opportunity to see the off Broadway play “Lady Day” the musical story of the legendary Billie Holiday. She is best known for her famous jazz standards such as “Strange Fruit”, “Lady Sings The Blues”, “Love Me and Leave Me” and much more. The show stars jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater who I must say did an outstanding job. Her rendition of the classic songs mixed with her jazz influenced voice simply blew the audience away.
Although it is known that Billie Holiday had a troubled life dealing with failed relationships and drug addiction, the play begins by telling the audience why her life became the way it had. It’s amazing to see Dee Dee Bridgewater’s transformation from the grown Billie Holiday to the little 10 year old child and witness the traumatizing life she lived. As quickly as she transitioned to a little girl she bounced right back into an adult and would break into a song.
The small cast includes herself, her band members and her manager who stepped into character well. There were a few scenes that stood out, one of them in particular was when she told the story of being banned from performing in the US. The lights grew dim while her band played softly and was drowned out into the darkness. The scene was written with so much detail that you can just visualize everything she is saying as if it were happening right before your eyes. She talks about having to escape out of her home town of Philadelphia while being chased by police. The most interesting part is she fled by car when she’d never even driven before. It’s a famous story, but the way they told it made it brand new again. Once she was banned from working in the US, she found herself performing in London, all the while yearning to perform in NY again before she died, a dream that never happened.
In one of the play’s highlights, Billie Holiday appeared in a bedazzled white dress. The lighting was white with hints of midnight blue. Billie was so intoxicated, however, she was determined to put on a great show for her fans and actually delivered fantastically. She sang her most popular hits and told the stories behind them, which I will not share with you least I spoil it for you.
I would suggest this play to folks who were around in Billie Holiday’s era or who grew up with her music. The music drives the production, there is not much acting in her story, however, the music tells it all. So be prepared to be entertained by the blues.
It’s not the happiest musical out there, but certainly one of the most memorable, so be prepared for a few uncomfortable and tear jerking moments.