When plans to bring the George Street Playhouse's hit regional revival of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill to Off Broadway this spring ran aground, producer Jeffrey Solis didn't quite give up. Coincidentally, another production of Lanie Robertson's play was just going up at the Delaware Theatre Company, Jan. 16-Feb. 10, so he decided to take a look at that mounting and consider bringing it to New York instead.
Now word comes that the Delaware staging won't transfer either. Solis told Playbill On-Line, "We've cancelled plans to bring Lady Day in for the late spring. There were two theatres we've had on hold, and I've notified them that it won't be happening. It's a shame, because I've been working for two years on this project, but I'm on a different page from the Delaware production, and it just didn't make sense to spend $450,000 to do it Off Broadway. I'd rather give the investors their money back and have them work with me again on something else in the future."
The New Jersey mounting of Lanie Robertson's play with music ended Nov. 11, 2001. Producer Solis told Playbill On-Line back on Dec. 12, 2001, "We've had New York plans to bring in the George Street production, and I was very disappointed that the production was not approved to come into New York. I'll be seeing the Delaware show in rehearsals and again after opening, and I'll make my decisions then."
Michael Bloom, who staged Sight Unseen Off Broadway, is directing the DE mounting, which officially opened Jan. 19 and extended its closing date from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10. The show stars Jackee Harry, best known for her TV roles on "Sister Sister" and "227" (for which she won an Emmy). Harry's Broadway credits include A Broadway Musical, Eubie and One Mo' Time (which, coincidentally, is receiving a Broadway revival this spring).
The Delaware Lady Day features lighting by Phil Monat, who lit the show's original, 1986 Off-Broadway staging. The set designer is Felix E. Cochren, the costume designer, Marla Jurglanis. David Alan Bunn co-stars in the two-hander, with Tommie McKenzie and Anthony Williams accompanying musically on bass and sax, respectively.
Lady Day led off the season at George Street, starting previews Oct. 9, opening Nov. 13 and running through Nov. 11. Suzzanne Douglas, the first black woman to star in the Pulitzer-winning Wit, returned to George Street to play Billie Holliday (aka Lady Day), whose addiction to booze and drugs wrecked a career as legendary as any jazz singer in the 20th century. Songs in the Outer Critics Circle Award winning Lady Day include "T'Ain't Nobody's Biz-ness," "Crazy He Calls Me" and "God Bless the Child." David Alan Bunn is the show's pianist, who occasionally interacts with Holiday.
Other Robertson works include the recently-revived Joe Orton story Nasty Little Secrets and the Kleban-winning libretto for Stringbean. This late spring, producer Solis is also serving as general manager for a hoped-for Off-Broadway mounting of Blessing in Disguise, a new "screwball comedy" written and directed by Tony n' Tina's Wedding scribe, Larry Pellegrini.
For tickets and information on Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill at Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, call (302) 594-1100.
-- By David Lefkowitz