Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Billie Holiday. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Billie Holiday. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday 29 June 2017

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Wyndhams Theatre | Review

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Wyndhams Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday June 28th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Honestly, I don't know how to start this review because I'm still in shock and awe of what I saw last night. Seeing a six time Tony award winner up close on stage is already a spectacle but seeing her transform into Billie Holiday and embody a heartbreaking character was just another level of incredible. The queen of Broadway, star of screen and most recently the wardrobe in the Beauty and the Beast remake, Audra McDonald is the embodiment of talent and to see her perform on stage is an honour.

Lady Day was originally meant to make its, and Audra's, West End debut almost a year ago exactly but with a surprise pregnancy turning things around, the opening of the show was cancelled.  Whilst this was a huge disappointment at the time, the extended wait for Miss McDonald to perform our side of the pond just built up the excitement and made her debut even more triumphant. 

Originally premiering in 1986 at the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, the play by Lanie Robertson tells a version of a concert performed by Billie in a dive bar with a tiny audience just a few months before her death. Visibly drunk and high its a story about a star falling so low in her last moments.  Robertson described it as "a monologue; a continuation of her thought process." Whilst the plot of the play may sound boring- starting before Holiday enters the stage and concluding 90 minutes later with her final song- it doesn't drag at all and is so affecting and powerful that you could keep watching and listening forever.

Audra McDonald is without a doubt the reason this play is so brilliant, can we give her every award going right now!?  However, when I first heard she would be playing Billie I was a little skeptical, as I learned, was Audra when she was first approached with the role. But from the moment the first note came out of her mouth, there was an audible gasp from the audience and we were wrapped round McDonald's finger. Audra transforms her voice to present Lady Day's elusive phrasing and raw timbre perfectly. This transformation is even more impressive when you know Audra's natural singing voice as a soaring, powerful, high soprano. She is so real in her performance, not only performing Billie but living and breathing her with every fibre of her being. She's truly in a league of her own. 

Of course the music of Billie Holiday would be a fraction of itself without the fantastic band supporting it. The trio of musicians- Neville Malcolm on bass, Frankie Tontoh on drums and Shelton Becton on piano and playing the role of Jimmy Powers- are wonderful and show off jazz music in a stunning way. 

A one woman show, set in a single dive bar is unusual and could become stagnant but Lonny Price's direction allows a flow and movement throughout, which along with little audience interactions creates a truly stunning piece of theatre. This is helped by the wonderful set and lighting by Christopher Oram and Mark Henderson which combined, create not only a wonderful set to look at but, but immerse you into the world and allow you to feel a part of the magic happening on stage.

Billie Holiday is brought back to life on the stage of the Wyndham's theatre as Audra McDonald gives a masterless in acting and musicianship in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and GrillAudra's performance is completely faultless and you know she's a star when even the adorable pup Pepi can't steal her moment! This is certainly a highlight of this theatrical season and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to go and see this masterpiece on stage. 

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill runs at the Wyndhams Theatre until September 9th.

Monday 17 July 2023

Diva Exhibition at the V&A Museum Review: A Majestic Showcase of Feminine Power and Artistry

a treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts, breathing life into the stories of these extraordinary divas"

Victoria and Albert Museum 

The newest exhibition at the V&A, Diva is an absolute treat, immersing visitors in the captivating world of awe-inspiring women who have enchanted us with their extraordinary talents, strength, and charisma.

From the moment you step into the exhibition hall, you truly feel a part of the glamour and empowerment. Split into two acts, the first being historical context of diva’s and the second focussing on the modern day artists, this enchanting journey through the lives and legacies of iconic divas is really awe-inspiring.

The curation of Diva is exceptionally well done. Skilfully interweaving various disciplines such as music, film, fashion, and photography as well as showcasing objects alongside outfits to tell personal and intriguing stories. The exhibit creates a multi-dimensional experience that effortlessly transports visitors into the captivating world of these remarkable women. Every display is meticulously crafted, capturing the very essence of the divas, their defining moments, and their profound contributions to popular culture. With 60 costumes and 250 items spanning from the 19th century to today, there is so much to take in and a number of highlights to be found throughout. Some personal favourites included the various Bob Mackie designs, which are accompanied by original artwork, Elton John's Louis XIV-inspired 50th birthday party look and the fringed black dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot in 1959.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts, breathing life into the stories of these extraordinary divas. From the elaborate stage costumes that exude the flamboyance of performers like Madonna and Lady Gaga, to the intimate handwritten letters and personal diaries that offer a glimpse into the private lives of divas like Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, each piece on display serves as a testament to their unrivalled greatness.

What sets the Diva exhibition apart is its unwavering commitment to highlighting the immense cultural impact of these trailblazing women. It delves deep into how these divas challenged societal norms, shattered glass ceilings, and emerged as symbols of empowerment for generations of women. Through interactive displays and thought-provoking installations, visitors are invited to reflect on the ongoing struggle for equality and the profound power of self-expression.

The audiovisual elements of the exhibition are incredibly effective. As you stroll through the halls, you’re treated to a symphony of iconic performances and interviews playing on large screens, perfectly complementing the visual feast before you. The accompanying soundtrack, carefully curated from the divas' most unforgettable hits, transports you through time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the journey.

The meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of the exhibition is truly praiseworthy. From the thoughtfully crafted lighting and set design that immerses visitors in a captivating ambiance to the informative plaques offering historical context, the Diva exhibition ensures an enriching experience that not only entertains but also educates about the indelible impact these women have made on the world.

The V&A Museum has truly surpassed expectations with the Diva exhibition, serving as a remarkable tribute to the enduring influence of these extraordinary women. Whether you're an avid fan of a specific diva or simply intrigued by the diverse tapestry of female talent, this exhibition is an absolute must-see. Be prepared to be dazzled and inspired by the unwavering spirit and artistic brilliance of the divas who have left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape.

Seamlessly weaves together art, history, and music, paying homage to the iconic women who have redefined what it means to be a diva, this exhibition is a must visit. Get ready to be enthralled, uplifted, and deeply moved by this extraordinary showcase of feminine power and artistry.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th July by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Anna Gordon

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}