Opening August 19 and running through September 3, fresh from a Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway, Dorset Theatre Festival presents award-winning playwright Lanie Robertson’s vivid look into the life and times of jazz great Billie Holiday, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
The time is 1959. The place is a seedy bar in South Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie’s last performances, given four months before her death. More than a dozen musical numbers ─ including her signature tunes, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”, “God Bless the Child”, “Strange Fruit” and others ─ are interlaced with salty, often humorous, reminiscences, revealing a riveting portrait of the lady and her music.
Dorset Theatre Festival’s production will be helmed by Artistic Director Dina Janis, who commented, “Billie Holiday is one of my heroes. Her life was in many ways – a truly tragic American story. She paid a heavy price for the kind of racism which was endemic then, but she never stopped fighting. Her struggles did not define her though- her music did. She was a stunning singer who’s phrasing and style transformed the jazz world, musicians adored her- and she was also one of jazz’s most important composers. This play allows us a penetrating look into her life as we listen to the profound legacy of her artistry- her music itself.”
Returning to Dorset Theatre Festival after her power-house performance in last season’s play, Intimate Apparel, actress and singer, Marinda Anderson plays Billie Holiday. Making his debut at the theatre musical director and actor, Kenney Green will play Jimmy, Lady Day’s piano player. Rounding out the era, the theatre itself will become part of the set as Set Designer, Alexander Woodward, Sound Designer Jane Shaw, and Lighting Designer Michael Giannitti transform it into a nightclub. Costume Designer Tracy Christensen will create the look of the period.
On August 20, at 6 pm Vermont Public Radio’s jazz program host Tom Reney looks at the realities of Billie Holiday’s career, what brought her to the Philadelphia bar in 1959 where the play takes place and how the historic context of segregation laws that restricted a generation of America’s greatest homegrown musicians impacted her. Free and open to the public. This program was made possible with support from the Vermont Humanities Foundation.
The Dorset Theatre Festival creates bold and innovative theatre that engages a diverse, multi-generational community, enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring its audience through the celebration of great plays produced with the highest degree of artistry. For more information on this program as well as the Festival in general, please go to dorsettheatrefestival.org or call (802) 867-2223.