The other night I watched the screen adaptation of Broadway's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill starring Tony Award winning actress, Audra McDonald. This is the closest that I will ever come to seeing Billie Holiday performing live. Had I only been able to catch its run on Broadway... Now that would have been more real.
The show takes place in Emerson's Bar & Grill, as the name foretells, in Philly four months prior to Billie Holiday's death. After seeing Diana Ross in the Lady Sings the Blues biopic years ago, and it being my favorite movie, I became enthralled with the life of this fiery jazz singer. So as you could probably guess, I was naturally intrigued when I heard about this play, and then the HBO special of it that just aired. Audra McDonald embodies the vocals and characteristics of Billie Holiday in this role, from which she has won her sixth Tony Award.
The troubled life of the talented Lady Day, as she was affectionately called, is center stage in this feature. While onstage performing in front of a packed house, she relives her relationships with her parents, men, drugs, the music industry, and more. Noting her music influences as Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, she says that the Billie Holiday sound is somewhere right in between the two. It really is a great sight to see, and I'm not just saying that because I love Billie Holliday and her music, or even because Audra McDondald captured the essence of the late jazz singer in this timeless performance. This feature includes McDonald singing several of Lady Day's notable classics, including God Bless the Child, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, and Strange Fruit. My favorite Billie Holiday songs are Good Morning Heartache, Them There Eyes, and Lover Man, which I would have loved to hear McDonald croon during her performance.