Tuesday, March 22, 2016

theatre review - LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL - Phoenix Theatre - March 18, 2016

Yolanda London
photo: Matt Chesin
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 3th.

"...Lanie Robertson's drama whisks us back to 1959 to a bar in South Philadelphia where Billie Holiday is giving what will ultimately be her last performance. Phoenix Theatre's production features a mesmerizing performance by Yolanda London, who pours her heart and soul into her nuanced portrayal...Robertson's play is a bit of an odd duck—part life remembrance, part cabaret act—that also shoehorns in just about every important detail from Holiday's life in order for anyone who doesn't already know about this famous woman to have a better understanding of her and what she endured through her life. While it does tend to be overstuffed, meanders a bit, and seems a tad overlong even though it only runs 90 minutes, it is also filled with warmth and humor and some heartbreaking stories...Yolanda London gives an exquisite performance as Holiday. While I'm no Holiday expert, I am familiar with her music, and London's delivery of these songs is stellar, with impeccable phrasing and a vocal inflection that is uncanny in its resemblance. London performs each of these songs exquisitely, with both passion and pain. While her singing is impressive, it is in her storytelling that London comes even more alive with a rawness and edge to her remembrances. She is giving one of the most breathtaking performances I've seen in quite some time...Director Pasha Yamotahari doesn't make one false move. ...Joel Birch's scenic design...works well to evoke a jazz club of the 1950s...Daniel Davisson's lighting design is exquisite...Josh Lutton's stunning costumes, including a ravishing white dress for London, and Terre Steed's hair and make-up designs magically transport us back to the period. Dark, seductive, astonishing, and heartbreaking are just a few adjectives to describe London's stellar performance. While the play has a few shortcomings, London's superb take on this legendary woman is a portrayal you will not want to miss."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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