Billie Holiday Sings Her Life--and Talks About It--In New Show at SCT Center Stage

Aug 8, 2014

Springfield Contemporary Theatre's new show, "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill," offers a fictional account of a real-life nightclub appearance by Billie Holiday not long before her death.
Credit (Image: Springfield Contemporary Theatre)

Springfield Contemporary Theatre presents Lanie Robertson's "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill," directed by Rick Dines, August 8-24 at SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza, Suite 136 on the corner of Pershing and Jefferson downtown. As Billie Holiday steps up to the microphone, her life story pours out through the songs that made her famous. In 1959, in a small intimate bar in Philadelphia, Holiday puts on a show, that unbeknownst to the audience, will be one of the last performances of her lifetime. Through her poignant voice and moving songs, one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time shares her loves and her losses.  

Rick Dines says that as the evening progresses, “It’s the late show, she’s had a few drinks, she decides to kind of just open up and chat with the audience, because she feels so much at home and it’s such a friendly environment.  Oh, she still sings—there are 14 songs in the show!  But she spends time telling stories from her life.” We don’t know for sure that Holiday actually chatted up the audience in Philadelphia that night, but Dines says Robertson uses things Holiday said, sometimes repeatedly, throughout her career.

This haunting and remarkable musical evening features “God Bless the Child,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Strange Fruit” and “T’aint Nobody’s Biz-ness” and many more Lady Day hits.  

Angelia King found her way into the role of Billie Holiday through what she describes as months of “hard studying, listening, trying to get the feel of her voice... (but) I have to remember ‘this is not Angelia King singing—this is Billie Holiday!”

This is the Springfield area premiere for this show. The production contains adult language and subject matter. In addition to Angelia King the cast includes Brooke Stephens as Holiday’s accompanist Jimmy Powers.  The production opens Friday August 8 at 7:30pm at SCT Center Stage and will run Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 through August 24.  For ticket information call 831-8001 or visit www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org.