Album Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (2014 Original Broadway Recording)


“All I know is that I’m in love with you”

Not a huge amount more to say about Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill that wasn’t covered in my review of the show when I caught up with on HBO in lieu of it actually opening in the West End. The two-disc cast recording replicates Audra McDonald’s stunning performance as Billie Holiday at the addiction-addled tail-end of her career in Lanie Robertson’s play with music. McDonald is striking indeed as the chanteuse in all her mood swings governed by the level of drink and drugs she’s imbibed and she sounds considerably different as she fully inhabits the character. 

With the song patter included, in all its sad and sorry story-telling though, it’s not the most dynamic of things to listen to. Maybe if I hadn’t seen it on screen so recently I’d feel differently but it really does seem like something is missing – without the visuals to complete the show, it is exposed as an impersonation – no matter how good that impersonation is – of jazz when the real thing is so easy to come by. I’d recommend tracking down the HBO recording rather than this album in all honesty.

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