First, it was Hedy Weiss in the Sun-Times. Then Chris Jones in the Tribune. Then Albert Williams in the Reader. They all ended up highly recommending Porchlight Music Theatre’s new production, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a tribute to Billie Holiday.
But what does a Smooth Jazz fan think of the show? Loyal listener (all the way back to WNUA, 1989!) Elizabeth Elser won a pair of tickets to the one-woman play a couple weeks ago from SmoothJazzChicago.net. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind giving us a review. Here’s what she wrote:
I had passed the place a million times but never been inside. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out, Stage 773 seats about 250 people. Everyone is up close to the stage, resulting in a very personal experience. All seats are good seats, in other words.
Going in, I did not know exactly what “a musical biography” meant. It ended up being an accurate depiction of one of the last four shows Billie Holiday did at Emerson's in Philly. And the young lady who played Miss Holiday, Alexis Rogers, was amazing. She became Billie Holiday from the moment she stepped on stage. Her size, mannerisms, facial expressions, along with her speaking AND singing voice, were absolutely spot on.
As the show (about 90 minutes total) went on, she sang 14 songs and in between them told stories of her life just as Billie Holiday apparently did in her real life shows. I was riveted by the actresses’s talent and feel for this part! All the way down to her vulnerability, exposed to the audience as Billie would get more inebriated as the show went on. When she reached for the signature white gardenia in a box on a stool behind her and put it behind her left ear, I cried. I'm a sap for theatre! Anyway, her three piece band was great also. When I got home and read the bios on the musicians, I was blown away. Am I glad I went!
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Another unforgettable performance by the legendary Miss Holiday.