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Sizzling return for Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill



Preview by Paul Nelson

I CAN hardly believe my luck in that it is going to be possible to see Dawn Hope again in her tour de force Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill.

The show was a sell out last summer at the New End and appreciative people were saddened to think that the performances in Hampstead were all there would be to it. It is a riveting piece of theatre, superbly staged and quite brilliantly performed.

The good news for those who never did see it, is that my review of the original can be accessed though our archive, and if the idea of the show turns them on, why then, they can nip across town and catch it.

It's around midnight in a small bar in Philadelphia in March 1959. Jazz singer, Billie Holiday, washed up but still charismatic, is making one of her final appearances. In the sleazy surroundings of her old friend Emerson's bar she begins her evening cabaret almost as an automaton, but between songs she gradually pours out the story of her life, the triumphs alongside the vicious, grinding existence of what is generally perceived to be a second class citizen.

It isn't all doom and gloom, however. There are amusing moments, liberally sprinkled throughout the tale, and standing out above the whole is the glorious performance of the major songs Billie Holiday made famous.

There are more than a dozen of them, including God Bless the Child, When a Woman Loves a Man, Don't Explain and Strange Fruit.

After the story is told, you cannot help but rejoice that out of the toil and general unhappiness there rose such uplifting jazz as T'Aint Nobody's Business to set your feet tapping all the way home.

Dawn Hope (Billie) has many West End credits including Bubbling Brown Sugar, They're Playing Our Song and Little Shop of Horrors. She made history by playing in two shows at once, Chicago at night and Ain't Misbehavin' at matinees.

Warren Wills was MD for the soul musicals Soul Train and Midnight Hour and is currently involved with the smash hit Simply Heavenly at the Young Vic. In the current show he plays Jimmy Powers, Billie Holiday's musical director and friend.

I don't often go over the side about a show I see, unless of course it is sizzlingly good, and this one sizzles.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill by Lanie Robertson, Directed by Mark Clements, Musical Director Warren Wills, Set Design by Chris Crosswell, Costume Designer Colin Mayes, Lighting Designer Alexander Stafford, Sound Designed by Nick Greenhill. WITH: Dawn Hope (Billie Holiday) and Warren Wills (Jimmy Powers). A Derby Playhouse Production presented by Stars & Angels Ltd with New End Theatre at The Warehouse Theatre, Dingwall Road, Croydon, Wednesday, April 30 to Sunday, May 18 (Tuesday 6.30pm, Wednesday to Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm). Tickets 020 8680 4060.

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