Serious plans had been afoot to bring the George Street Playhouse's hit regional revival of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill to Off Broadway this spring, but artistic differences recently brought transfer to a halt. Game over?
Not quite. Though the New Jersey mounting of Lanie Robertson's play with music, which ended Nov. 11, 2001 is no longer in play, the musical just happens to be getting another staging at Delaware Theatre Company, Jan. 16-Feb. 10, and that one may — just may — reach New York for the second half of this season.
Producer Jeffrey Solis told Playbill On-Line Dec. 12, "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 opens Jan. 19 and has already extended a week. 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. Asked about the production's chances for a Manhattan transfer, producer Solis said, "I had a house on hold in February, and I have three Off Broadway houses calling me constantly for it, but I'm not committing to anything until I get down to see it in January."
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 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