Audra McDonald's Lady Day Live Album Holds Strong as Billboard Chart-Topper

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01 Aug 2014

Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald
Evgenia Eliseeva

PS Classics' two-disc, live original Broadway cast album of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, starring Audra McDonald as late singer Billie Holiday, has held onto the #1 slot in Billboard's Cast Album chart in its second week of release.

Lady Day is the first Broadway cast album since PS Classics' 2011 release of Follies to remain in the #1 spot in the Cast Albums chart in its first two consecutive weeks of release, according to Billboard. Lady Day also remained strong in the Jazz and Traditional Jazz charts, placing at #2 behind chart staple Michael Bublé.

The critically acclaimed album was released July 15. McDonald won her sixth, record-breaking Tony Award for her performance.

In its first week of release, the Lady Day album placed #1 in Cast Albums, #1 in Jazz, #1 in Traditional Jazz and #1 in Heatseekers. It also marks McDonald's highest-charting solo release ever, according to Billboard.

Philip Chaffin, co-founder of PS Classics, told Playbill.com, "First-week sales are typically strong, because they include all the weeks of pre-orders. So it's the second-week sales that are telling; usually you have a strong first week, then the second week, you fall behind Wicked. That's been the pattern for years. So it's really gratifying to see Lady Day holding up so well. You know, we had a lot of customers write us when we announced the recording, wondering why we were doing it live, and why the whole show – I think there was a little resistance – but many of those same customers, once we released the album, wrote us back to say, 'Oh, now I get it.' From the emails and reviews we've gotten, people are really feeling that all the heart and humor and drama of the evening comes through so clearly even without the visuals, and that's such a tribute of course to Audra's magnificent performance, but also to Lanie Robertson's play, which is so rich with detail and emotion. It's wonderful to see both the Broadway and the jazz communities embracing the album as they have."



Read Playbill.com's track-by-track breakdown of the album here.

Directed by Tony Award nominee Lonny Price (110 in the Shade, Sweeney Todd, Company), Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill began previews March 25 and opened to strong critical notices April 13. The engagement was extended for a third time through Sept. 21 at Circle in the Square.

Read the reviews here.

The album was recorded during the May 27-31 performances. It is produced by Tommy Krasker, who previously helmed McDonald’s first three solo albums. 

"Audra has such an extraordinary rapport with the audience in this show, and the way that mirrors and contrasts and informs Billie Holiday's relationship with her own audience that night in Philadelphia is part of what makes the evening so extraordinary," Krasker previously told Playbill.com. "Recording live allows us to capture some of the richness and depth of this production in a way we never could have in a studio album. I'm so delighted to have the chance to preserve this performance, and this play, on disc."

The track listing follows:

Disc One:
Introduction
I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone
When a Woman Loves a Man
"I’m even glad to be back in Philly..."
"I want to introduce my accompanist..."
What a Little Moonlight Can Do
"We got this contract..."
Crazy He Calls Me
"They used to be hangin’ from the rafters..."
Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer)
"That was in the early thirties..."
Baby Doll
"I better watch myself here..."
God Bless the Child
"That was for my mama..."

Disc Two:
"Nobody but me ever liked Sonny..."
Foolin’ Myself/Somebody’s on My Mind
Easy Living
"I was singin’ with Artie’s band..."
Strange Fruit
"It’s bad again, Jimmy..."
Blues Break
"Now I’ll take a little break right here..."
'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do
"I want you all to meet Pepi..."
"I was doin’ the bad drugs heavy..."
Don’t Explain / What a Little Moonlight Can Do (Reprise)
Deep Song

The production garnered Tony Awards for Best Actress (McDonald) and Best Sound Design (Steve Canyon Kennedy).

The 1959-set play, which centers on one of Holiday's final public appearances, takes place in Philadelphia four months before the singer's death. The 90-minute show includes such songs as "God Bless the Child," "Strange Fruit," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "When a Woman Loves a Man," "Foolin' Myself," "Don't Explain," "Somebody's On My Mind," "Taint Nobody's Bizness," "Baby Doll" and more. A cast album is planned.

McDonald is joined by Shelton Becton as pianist Jimmy Powers. The musical team also includes bassist George Farmer and drummer Clayton Craddock. Michael Keller is the music coordinator.

According to producers, "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill recounts Holiday's life story through the songs that made her famous. 1959, in a small, intimate bar in Philadelphia, Holiday puts on a show that unbeknownst to the audience, will leave them witnesses to one of the last performances of her lifetime. Through her poignant voice and moving songs, one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time shares her loves and her losses."

Lady Day has scenic design by James Noone, costume design by ESosa, lighting design by Robert Wierzel, sound design by Steven Canyon Kennedy, wig design and special makeup design by J. Jared Janas and Rob Greene. Orchestrations and musical arrangements are by Tim Weil.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA, in the spring of 1986 prior to an Off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre. Lonette McKee starred in the original Off-Broadway staging of the musical that has become a popular title for regional theatres.

McDonald earned Tony Awards for her work in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime and A Raisin in the Sun. Her work on stage also includes Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Patti LuPone, as well as Tony-nominated performances in 110 in the Shade and Marie Christine. On screen she has appeared in the television adaptations of "A Raisin in the Sun," "Wit" and "Annie." She is known to television audiences for "Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Her solo albums include "Go Back Home" (2013), "Way Back to Paradise" (1998), "How Glory Goes" (2000), "Happy Songs" (2002) and "Build a Bridge" (2006).

Lady Day is produced by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jessica Genick, and Will Trice, who are joined by Ronald Frankel, Rebecca Gold, Roger Berlind, Ken Greiner, Gabrielle Palitz, Irene Gandy and GFour Productions.

For tickets visit Telecharge.com.

Visit ladydayonbroadway.com.

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