After a much anticipated introduction by "Jimmy", "Lady Day" made her way down the center aisle, sauntering past the cocktail tables and up the steps to the lone microphone center stage. As she began to sing, the silence of the audience was deafening. I had to ask myself whether I was really on Broadway, as everything about Audra McDonald's voice, inflections and mannerisms was Billie Holiday. As the show progressed, I tried to imagine how Ms. McDonald prepared for her tole. Did she study each and every nuance of every single song by the late great Lady Day? Had she watched old performance film clips imitating each and every movement and facial expression? And I wasnt the only one who felt the awe of the performance because I could hear the comments all around me echoing how spot-on Ms McDonald was in every way to Billie Holiday.
The show triumphantly combines singing and narrative by the star about "her" life, the important people and influences on it and a visual portrayal of her crippling addiction to heroin. A poiniant journey though Billie Holiday's difficult and tragic 44 years and a tribute to this one of a kind talented singer songwriter, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill gave me chills, made me laugh and brought me to tears. I left the theatre with two conclusions: Billie Holiday was clearly one of America's musical treasures and Audra McDonald is one of today's theatrical gems. It is certainly no wonder that she has won more Tonys than any other actor of either gender, and is the only person to win all four acting categories for either gender. After seeing Lady Day, it became clear to me why.
After the show, Mom and I headed for the stage door and were fortunate enough to meet Ms McDonald. Gracious and accommodating, she signed playbills, took pictures and said hello to each and every fan patiently waiting. I took a not-so-good selfie with her of myself, but captured her beautifully! Mom had a great time chatting with one of the other cast member musicians, who was elated to give her his autograph.
Another superb night on Broadway for Mom and me - this time at Lady Day!
For your reference
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill