LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL Brings Billie Holiday to Life at ICT
Turn back the hands of time for an intimate evening with legendary jazz songstress Billie Holiday when International City Theatre presents an acclaimed musical portrait of one of the greatest jazz and blues vocalists of all time. With Karole Foreman(ICT's award-winning production of Fences) in the title role, music direction by Stephan Terry and Ebony Rep producing artistic director Wren T. Brown at the helm, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill by Lanie Robertson gets a three-week run Oct. 18 through Nov. 3. Performances take place at International City Theatre's venue in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Two low-priced previews are set for Oct. 16 and Oct. 17.
Robertson's play treats the audience to one last performance by the legendary singer. In 1959 in a seedy Philadelphia bar, Holiday takes us on a journey through the highs and lows of her tumultuous life, interspersed with stunning renditions of her beloved repertoire. Unknown to her, Lady Day - a nickname bestowed on her by the great saxophonist Lester Young - is making her final appearance. More than a dozen musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous, reminiscences to project a riveting portrait of the icon and her music. Among the songs heard in the show are "God Bless the Child," "Crazy He Calls Me," "T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" and "Strange Fruit."
The playwright was inspired by a performance Holiday gave before a very small audience in a Philadelphia club (not named Emerson's Bar & Grill) just four months before her death at age 44. She was, by then, a shell of her former self, her vocal skills diminished due to too many years of heroin and alcohol abuse. But despite her vocal shortcomings, her connection to her music and to her audience never wavered.
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia in 1986 and was produced off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre later that year, winning the 1987 Outer Critics Circle Award for "Best Off-Broadway Book." It opened on Broadway at Circle in the Square in 2014 starring Audra McDonald, who won her record-breaking sixth Tony Award for the production and became the only person to win in all four acting categories, this time for Best Actress in a Play. The Broadway production was later filmed at the Cafe Brasil in New Orleans and broadcast on HBO.
The creative team for the ICT production includes set designer Yuri Okahana, lighting designer Donna Ruzika, costume designer Kim DeShazo, sound designer Corwin Evans, prop designers Patty and Gordon Briles, and hair and wigs designer Anthony Gagliardi. Casting is by Michael Donovan.
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Oct. 18 through Nov. 3. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Oct. 16 and Thursday, Oct. 17, both at 8 p.m. Tickets are $47 on Thursdays and Fridays, and $49 on Saturdays and Sundays, except for Oct. 18 (opening night) for which tickets are $55 and include a post-performance reception with the actors. Low-priced tickets to previews are $35.
International City Theatre has formed a community partnership with the African American community in Long Beach with the purpose of bringing our diverse community together, raising funds for college scholarships, and bringing students to the production. A Community Partnership Package, which includes a pre-performance Gala dinner as well as the post-show reception with the actors on opening night, is $125; tables of ten are available for $1,200.
International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 330 East Seaside Way in Long Beach, CA 90802. For reservations and information, call 562-436-4610 or go to InternationalCityTheatre.org.