Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
by Lanie Robertson
Milwaukee Repertory Theater
September - October 2016
"This is no musical revue, as director Leda Hoffman says in press materials put out by the Milwaukee Rep, but rather a 'full piece of theater with a full story to tell.' And it does just that, brilliantly."
- Matthew Perta, Showbiz Chicago
Click here for the full Showbiz Chicago review.
"On a simply dressed stage conjuring images of the Philadelphia night club where “Lady Day” unfolds, Billie’s accompanist (Abdul Hamid Royal) introduces a Billie who is already at the microphone and ready to sing, even though the lights haven’t come up and she’s lost in shadow.By March 1959 that’s how it was; her voice and liver both shot, Holiday would be dead in July. The performer who’d once wandered among the tables in the clubs where she sang was hiding behind a fourth wall, blinded by the light and focused on the singing that had long been her salvation.
So it goes here; under Leda Hoffmann’s direction, Alexis J. Roston’s Holiday isn’t close to cracking a smile when we first see her.
Sure: More than once, she’ll assure the audience that we’re her friends. But don’t believe it. For as this Holiday also tells us more than once, it’s only through singing that she feels fully alive. And as Roston clearly understands, Holiday is primarily singing for herself and her survival rather than for us."
- Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Click here for the full Journal Sentinel review.
"In Milwaukee, Roston stands on a small, dark stage, barely big enough for her and the piano. The set’s concrete block walls and glass block window give the place a “downstairs” feeling. Through brilliant lighting effects, the colors of Holiday’s world seem to bloom and fade through the glass wall and also from the edges of the stage."
- Anne Siegel, Total Theater
Click here for the full Total Theater review.
Billie Holiday - Alexis J. Roston*
Jimmy Powers - Abdul Hamid Royal*
*member of Actors' Equity Association
Director - Leda Hoffmann
Scenic Designer - J. Michael Griggs
Lighting Designer - Christine Binder
Costume Designer - Jason Orlenko
Sound Designer - Victoria Deiorio
Stage Manager - Anthony Poston
Stage Management Resident - Vickie Morales
Assistant Director - Daniella Wheelock