Playing at the Little Shubert Theatre located at 422 West 42nd Street. It runs two hours and twenty minutes with one intermission. The musical is an open ended run.
Billie Holiday (Elanora Fagan) was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her nick name was “Lady Day”. Billie's early years were difficult. Her mother was never around. She was shuffled from relative to relative. She skipped school a lot and was raped by a neighbor. This all happened before she was twelve. In 1929 she joined her mother in Harlem, New York. Her mother lived in a brothel (she was a prostitute), at fourteen Billie became a prostitute. Billie’s adult life had its ups and downs. She was married several times. All were abusive men. This is the tip of her tragic life.
“God Bless the Child” sold over a million copies and ranked # 3 on Billboards end of the year top songs of 1941. She recorded twelve studio albums.
In her final year she was swindled out of her earnings and died with $0.70 in the bank.
She died on July 17, 1959 from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Billie was a heavy drinker and drug addict.
Dee Dee Bridgewater won a Tony Award in 1975 for “Wicked. She was in the London production of “Lady Day” in 1986. Dee Dee was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for this role. She was nominated for seven Grammy Awards and won three. She won in 1988 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance “Dear Ella” and Best Instrumental arrangement “Cotton Tail” from “Dear Ella”. In 2010 she won for Vocal Album “Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Act one takes place on rehearsal day on the stage of a London theatre. The time is August 1954. Billie (Dee Dee Bridgewater) is late. Her band members are getting restless. When she does arrive, she comes up with different excuses as to why she is late.
Her manager Robert (David Ayers) tells her how important this concert is. She has been traveling all over Europe doing the show. Robert says London reviews will get back to the United States. Favorable ones might get her some jobs back home. She wants to drink badly. We get flash backs of her childhood. Drinking is the only way to kill the demons.
Act two is the evening concert. Billie comes on the stage drunk, making different remarks to the audience. Some people leave. When she comes to her senses, Billie tells the audience she is supposed to follow a script but I can’t remember what it is. I rather be frank with you about my life. She tells of events in her life and then sings the song pertaining to it. Billie tells why her cabaret card was taken away. She can’t perform in New York where there is liquor being served without it.
This show is a wonderful tribute to a talented women.
Dee Dee Bridgewater does a breath taking job as a tormented singer. You would think she was Billie.
If you are not familiar with the life of Billie you will be after this show. It will make you want to read more about her. The band is made up of a piano (Bill Jolly), base (James Cammack), drums (Jerome Jennings) and sax (Neil Johnson).
Billy and Jerome did a great job.
This is one off Broadway show you will enjoy.
Review by Rozanna Radakovich
Photos by Annazor.
Too read a candid interview with cast, scroll down to the left for recent photos. Click on recent photos for this and other shows.