Monday, June 4, 2018

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill—The Armory at PCS—Pearl District


‘Round Midnight
This musical tribute & history of the great Blues/Jazz singer, Billie Holiday (Deidrie Henry), is written by Lanie Robertson and directed by Bill Fennelly.
  It is playing at their space, 128 NW 11th Ave, through July 1st.  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org.
The magic hour when shadows invade the senses, memories recur in full, fierce force and music & song is in the hands of royalty—Billie Holiday (Henry)!
  It is unclear as to why such icons of the entertainment/creative worlds feel the need of a “boost” to guide them along.  Many of the greats were involved with drugs, alcohol, battled with insanity and had less than stellar childhoods.  Such was Holiday, a jazzy blues singer whose candle burnt out some 60 years ago.  But this, perhaps, her last appearance, is in South Philly, a town who she has a love/hate relationship with.
She tells of her childhood and her beloved Mom, the “Duchess;” her sexual abuse at the age of 10; of her first real love, the abusive, Sonny; her addictions; her love of music and performing; her relationship with the understanding Artie Shaw and his band of white musicians; and one special occasion when she encountered a club with no toilets for black females and how she remedied that situation (priceless).

Most of Holiday’s favorites are here (but not listed in the program).
  Some of them that I got were “Crazy,” “Baby Doll,” “Easy Livin,’” “Strange Fruit,” and “God Bless the Children.”  Her vocal range slides easily from ballads, to brassy, to mournful and to the upbeat.  One thing you knew for sure, she lived all these songs…and her stories.
And she’s not alone up there.
  She brought along her special guest, Pepe, who helps her through the darkness.  And, of course, there was her ever-lovin’, Jimmy (Abdul Hamid Royal), the piano-man; on drums, Charles Neal and on Bass, James H. Leary (replacing the recently departed, well-known Bass player, Andre St. James).  And they were all terrific!
Fennelly has assembled the perfect cast for this!
  And kudos to Scenic Designer, Michael Schweikardt, it is amazing.  And Henry is following in the shoes of Audra MacDonald (Broadway) and Diana Ross (film, “Lady Sings the Blues”).  But she matches them every step of the way for this is not just someone doing her songs but who embodies the role in her monologues, as she relates her horrific past both in acting and singing.  She does justice to Holiday, who would have been impressed, too, I believe!

I recommend this show, especially for Henry.
  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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