“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” has been known as a one-lady appear, yet that is a misnomer.
It depends on the on-screen character playing Billie Holiday as well as three gifted artists, a smug pooch and about six apparitions, who flutter around the venue as Lady Day strolls us through her upset past. Lanie Robertson’s play gets a portion of its poignancy from our insight that Holiday will be gone four months after the fact at 44.
She has just started to capitulate to liquor she kicked the bucket of cirrhosis in 1959 and is presumably sustaining her heroin propensity.
However this isn’t a pity party, as Holiday reminds us. She might be in Philadelphia, a city that has consistently brought misfortune, singing in a setting that wouldn’t have the boldness to consider itself a dinner club.
In any case, as she thinks about victories, disappointments and things missing from her life, she’s tolerant of the past and cheerful for what’s to come.
One of the last things she says is the amount she’d like her very own club, where she can sing for “companions” like us.
She sings and shares memories for almost an hour and a half, wandering among the crowd with loosened up agree ability even while discussing high school a long time as a whore or the time she was denied access to a washroom on visit with Artie Shaw’s band. (I wonder if Holiday could deal with a group with such elan, even in her prime.)