Currently playing at Wyndhams' Theatre in London, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill is an atmospheric, convincing, 90-minute production which draws you into the exuberant personality of Billie Holiday, who is played by the multi-award winning Audra McDonald.
When I saw Lady Day, it took me a while to get into the show. The production is stylishly simple – quaint staging, one actor (McDonald), three musicians, and audience members on the stage … But, add that to the authentic way in which McDonald engages with the audience and with the character of Holiday, and it really does feel like you're at Emerson's Bar & Grill, listening to a (somewhat unstable) jazz singer telling you about her life.
The set and lighting used throughout the show also add a lot to the ambience. I enjoyed the fact that the band were centre-stage; they have a consistently strong presence within the production. Although Lady Day is not a musical, music is the cement that holds the show together. McDonald has a great voice and the band sounds fantastic.
That said, if you want to see a high-impact or deeply thought-provoking West End production, you may feel underwhelmed by Lady Day. This is the sort of show that you will enjoy if you are a jazz lover who wants to see something that is a bit different, and relatively inexpensive.
If all that jazz sounds like your kind of show, you can catch Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill until September.
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