Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Circle in the Square
Thursday, March 27, 8PM
Warning: This is a completely biased review from an unapologetic Audra-obsessed fanboy. Do not expect impartial criticism.
|Audra and Billie|
I don’t care if the nominating committee can’t decide whether Lady Day is a “musical” or a “play with music.” Just hand Audra her sixth Tony. If I had my way, I would institute a “Best Performance by Audra McDonald” category and she could win a Tony every year. We can then debate the flawlessness of each performance in whatever show she’s currently appearing.
As a confirmed Audraphile, I admit even I had my doubts. Audra’s voice is perfection, but I just couldn’t imagine Audra’s soaring legit soprano attempt to take on Billie Holiday’s iconic songs and performance style. But what Ms. McD accomplishes transcends mere mimicry. She's dampened some of the glorious bloom and lushness of her soprano voice in order to inhabit - not just imitate - Holiday’s iconic sound, style and manner.
It’s unfortunate the book scenes don’t match the quality of Audra’s performance. They are uneven and sometimes unnecessarily meandering. But Audra manages to enthrall with even mediocre writing. There is an immediacy and desperation in her performance that only heightens the tragedy of Holiday’s short, demon-filled life.
The intimate Circle in the Square is the perfect venue to see Audra up close and personal. And even as a boozed-up, heroin addict, Audra’s still radiant. Though I suspect if she ever played a homeless, scarred leper I’d still find her radiant. Did I mention I’m obsessed with Audra?
Props to the excellent onstage jazz trio whose talents are equally responsible for the style and sound of the show.