The Phoenix Theatre Company’s 104th season is underway with a tour-de-force portrait of iconic jazz songstress Billie Holiday.
Yolanda London stars in “Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill,” the Tony-award nominated musical on stage in Phoenix through Nov. 26.
The show takes place in 1959 in a seedy Philadelphia bar just four months before Holiday’s tragic death. The depths of “Lady Day” include heart-wrenching songs from her music catalog and touch on her battles with alcoholism and drug abuse in her later years.
Set on stage with a live band, featuring Deryk George on piano, Wallace Steele on bass, and Terry "LT" Green on drums, the performances are intertwined with salty, often humorous anecdotes that provide a riveting portrait of the iconic lady and her music. The one-woman show features London as Holiday and Jari Haile as her understudy.
This is not the first time London has portrayed Holiday at The Phoenix Theatre Company. She was part of the heralded 2016 production of “Lady Day” and has since played Holiday in productions across the country including shows in Alabama and Pennsylvania. This will be her fifth time in the role.
“I would definitely say I feel connected to Billie Holiday in many ways,” London shared in a press release. “I find her music incredibly moving and emotional. I also feel for her. Her story is one of deep sadness and remarkable perseverance. When she sings, I feel her music in my soul. It sounds hyperbolic, but it's true. I find her music incredibly moving and emotional.”
This production is poignant for London who will be performing the story at the same age Holiday was when she died, at 44.
“I feel, now more than ever, I'm ready to tell her story,” she stated.