Holiday Party

Inside a dimly lit jazz club, a lone pianist plunks the keys of an old Baldwin upright before launching into Woodrow Johnson's “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone,” as a tall woman with a flower in her hair takes the stage.

Sounds sexy, no?

Squint your eyes just a little and it will help you pretend you’ve been transported back in time to a smoky juke joint in 1959 for one of Billie Holiday’s last performances. This scintillating scene is one of the settings of Black Theatre Troupe’s Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, playwright Lanie Robertson’s musical tribute to the late, great jazz singer.

Yolanda Robertson portrays Lady Day in the twilight of her life; a tired, worn-out woman who’s recalling (and trying to recover from) a past spoiled by heroin addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, and sexual abuse. But it’s the songs -- so many of them familiar and so nicely presented during the production -- that reveal her true pain.

Directed by Ed Smith and with musical direction by Lawrence O. Dabney, the production (which runs through May 22) takes the stage at Playhouse on the Park.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 2 p.m. Starts: May 13. Continues through May 23, 2011
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela