Thanks to the wonders of theater one of America’s most historically prized artists, Billie Holiday returns to the stage. Embrace the jazz singer’s most famous works like no one has ever seen. I couldn’t believe it myself upon first witnessing. But no one could ever match the emotional power of “God Bless the Child” or “Crazy He Calls Me.” Which leads me to ask the question: Has the Zombie Apocalypse finally arrived?
Freeport Factory Stage presents Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill for three weekends, Thursday through Sunday starting on March 29 (resurrecting Holiday single-handed). Witness the concert of a lifetime as you listen to Billie recount the beauty and pains of being an artist in her time. Accompanied by Jimmy Powers on the piano, Lady Day subtly presents you with her music, personality and the truths behind her tumultuous past. More truths are revealed and some experiences become rather vulgar as the alcohol increases (much like everyone’s friend Peter who thinks that everyone would like to hear their life story after only a drink. We all have a friend named Peter!) Billie’s story is very different from our beloved lightweight of a friend, Peter, though.
The tale is told eloquently through the relationship Miss Holiday shares with her best of friends, the audience. Mardra Thomas assumes the role of the famous singer and presents it beautifully. Her lack of need to impress and quirky (yet somewhat audacious) humor seems so “down-to-earth” that you believe she must be real. Thomas gives a stunning performance that leaves you breathless and tests your morals (luckily, you can grab a drink during intermission).
The music is great. The acting simple, yet strong. The direction powerful and unpredictable, even in simplicity. Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill is a delightful evening that proves there is no need for explosives and sword fighting to be thoroughly entertained. Is the play a bit too simple? Does it not take enough risks? Perhaps, for some viewers it does not. However the lack of “risk taking,” is very refreshing in this market. Freeport Factory has a production that will be enjoyed by any musician, performer, artist or anyone who loves a good story.
The play runs for two more weekends. Every Thursday performance is pay-what-you-can. Really, you have no reason to miss this great tribute to the Jazz phenomenon, Billie Holiday. Unless of course the virus spreads and zombies are outside your door. It started in Freeport so… I will go out on a limb and say it will probably spread along the coast of Maine first. Portland, prepare yourselves! Lady day has returned.