Camille Saviola, the vocal powerhouse who created the role of Emma Goldman in the world premiere of Ragtime in Toronto and appeared in Nine on Broadway, continues to develop her Los Angeles solo show, Blue Like Billie Holiday on a Stormy Monday Baby.
The music-theatre piece about a bag lady played several performances in December 1999 and reopens in a reshaped form 8 PM Jan. 21 at 2100 Feet, 5615 San Vicente (between LaBrea & Fairfax), in Los Angeles.
"The feedback from the audiences has been extremely helpful," Saviola told Playbill On-Line. "They have responded to the writing in a very strong, visceral way."
Conceived and written by Saviola, Blue Like Billie Holiday... is "a journey of a bag lady and all the characters that live within her psyche," she said. She called it "a musical work in progress," with original music and existing music weaving through monologues.
"I am adding a new ending this time," she said. "Kind of surreal. I am also strengthening the through-line...[and] I am doing very little cutting. The show runs 1:40 without an intermission. I might shave 10 minutes as long as the text isn't compromised." Saviola said she is inviting more industry people and producers for the return gig, and would like to see it play on a tour.
Performances continue 8 PM Jan. 22, 28 and 29.
Some of the characters in Blue Like Billie Holiday were tested in a one-night performance in summer 1999, Saviola said, but the show in its fuller form made its world premiere Dec. 3-11, 1999, at 2100 Square Feet.
"It takes on issues of isolation, judgment, opening up the mind," Saviola said of the show. "It's about not judging books by their cover and going deeper, behind the facades that are presented in the world."
The homeless woman at the solo tuner's core is presented in an almost vaudevillian context, with show cards and costume changes, Saviola said. The character's goal is to save a theatre that's going to be torn down. "It's very stream of consciousness, very provocative," Saviola said.
Since having a falling out with the Ragtime management (Judy Kaye went on to create the role of Emma Goldman on Broadway after the Toronto world premiere), Saviola has done some TV work, performed Brecht in L.A. and generally tried to "reclaim" herself in a "crossroads" period of her life.
Theatregoers remember her as the saucy Mama Maddelena in Broadway's Nine (and cast album), in which she sang "The Germans at the Spa." In the Nine tour, she was Saraghina (singing "Be Italian"). Her voice is heard in the "Songs from Ragtime" CD that pre-dated the 1996 Toronto staging.
Saviola performed mostly original roles in New York and points to Bloody Mary in New York City Opera's South Pacific as one of few revival roles she's played. She performed late-night solo shows at Manhattan Theatre Club and had some airplay with a disco single, "Keep on Shakin' That Thang." She still laughs at the memory of the latter.
After absorbing research about the social reformer Emma Goldman, for Ragtime, she's considered developing a one-woman show based on the figure.
Tickets to her new solo piece are $15. For information about Blue Like Billie Holiday on a Stormy Monday Baby, call (323) 222-8863.
-- By Kenneth Jones