A musical play about the life of jazz great Billie Holiday, starring AACTA Award-winner Zahra Newman, Belvoir presents the Tony-award-winning hit, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.
Directed by Mitchell Butel, and written by Lanie Robertson, Newman (The Book of Mormon, GWB’s Girl From The North Country) both stars as the musical legend behind some of the most famous jazz hits, and is also Associate Director of the show.
It’s 1959, in a bar in South Philadelphia. It’s a bit rundown. You wouldn’t know it, but we’re in a moment of history – one of Billie Holiday’s legendary last performances.
As she sings her set (and it’s the greats – Taint Nobody’s Business If I Do, Strange Fruit, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Easy Livin’, God Bless the Child, and more) she shares the story of her life – a bit risqué, humorous, political, ecstatic, tragic. Lady Day comes to the fore as she looks back on a life, on an era.
Director Mitchell Butel says this production will see Newman’s “talent and musical mastery take full flight. I have always loved both the beauty and melancholy of Billie Holiday’s golden voice and artistry and her advocacy for civil rights; I have likewise always been in awe of Zahra’s great charm and skill,” he said.
“And when Zahra sings, like Billie, she reaches to the centre of the earth and up to the heavens. You’ll be in heaven in this cabaret club that we will create in the Belvoir Theatre. You’ll never want to leave,” said Butel.
The co-production with State Theatre Company South Australia and Melbourne Theatre Company will feature a jazz trio including renowned bassist Victor Rounds, Calvin Welch (ABC’s The Nanas and The Poppas) and South Australia’s own legendary pianist Kym Purling, the show’s musical director, as Jimmy Powers. The cabaret-seated show will even feature a brief cameo from a chihuahua, starring as Holiday’s loyal canine companion Pepe.
“It’s just fantastic we can get Zahra Newman back on our stage – and not just for her charisma and her acting prowess, we get to hear her sing, too. And that’s seriously worth twice the ticket price. These songs blow your mind and move you to tears. It’s Zahra and her band, and its great theatre, perfect for a space like Belvoir,” said Belvoir Artistic Director, Eamon Flack.
Brimming with great music, raw emotion and humour Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill will be an incredible night out at the theatre for music and theatre lovers alike.
Director: Mitchell Butel | Featuring: Zahra Newman, Elenoa Rokobaro, Kym Purling, Victor Rounds, Calvin Welch | Associate Director: Zahra Newman | Set and Costume Designer: Ailsa Paterson | Lighting Designer: Govin Ruben | Musical Director and Additional Arrangements: Kym Purling | Musical Arranger: Danny Holgate | Sound Designer: Andrew Howard | Voice and Dialogue Coach: Geraldine Cook-Dafner | Voice and Dialogue Coach: Jennifer Innes | Stage Manager: Bridget Samuel | Assistant Stage Manager: Sean Proude | Writer: Lanie Robertson
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Upstairs Theatre – Belvoir St Theatre, Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Season continues to 15 October 2023
Information and Bookings: www.belvoir.com.au
Image: Zahra Newman as Billie Holiday – photo by Daniel Boud