TheatreLAB’s ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’ aims for authentic Billie Holiday show
TheatreLAB is gearing up for another great show spotlighting the Black community. Set in a dive bar in South Philadelphia during the year 1959, the show aims to be full of both history and music.
TheatreLab’s very own Katrinah Carol Lewis will be portraying the late Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
Deejay Gray, artistic director for TheatreLAB and director of the show, knew from the jump that he wanted Lewis to play the lead. “Sometimes I like to entertain myself by playing this game I like to call ‘Hypothetically Casting My Favorite Actors In My Favorite Shows’ and without fail, Katrinah always seems to make her way into every one,” he said. “[…] when the rights for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill became available after the recent Broadway production, I jumped at the opportunity to see one of my hypothetical casting dreams come true.”
Seeing as the production is a one-woman show, it was imperative that whoever was cast as Holiday had to have a skill set similar to that of the blues singer. Single-handedly holding an audience’s attention for an entire show seems difficult, but Gray is confident in Lewis’ ability to handle the crowd with grace.
“She [Katrinah] is a beautiful storyteller and she creates these rich, interesting bonds with her audiences,” he said. “Holiday sings and tells stories all night while only occasionally interacting with her accompanist, Jimmy Powers (played by Larri Branch), so we really lucked out having Katrinah join us for this project.”
Seeing as Lewis was virtually hand-picked, Gray knew what he was going to be working with, and he was stoked.
The only surprises he went through was consistency in her headstrong attitude during the rehearsal process. “[…] she surprises me all the time with her talent and her total willingness to dive headfirst into every project,” he said. “I think she thrives on the adrenaline and it’s really thrilling to watch.”
In addition to the talent on stage, The Basement at TheatreLAB has done its best to transform the space to give the audience the full experience. “We pride ourselves on our ability to shape-shift at The Basement!” said Gray.
Many theatre goers are used to big stages, but TheatreLAB prides itself on The Basement’s ability to use its intimacy to immerse you in the story. For Lady Day, they set up new risers and cabaret seating with candles so you can really delve in the show.
“We know everyone will be pleasantly surprised by the ways we’ve transformed our space since last season for this production,” said Gray.
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill opens tomorrow (November 12th) and runs through December 12th. Tickets are available at theatrelabrva.org.
“It’s a good time, but there’s also moments of being very sincere and very dramatic”February 21, 2017
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