Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Starring Audra McDonald, Will Be Recorded Live

News   Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Starring Audra McDonald, Will Be Recorded Live
PS Classics will record a two-disc live original Broadway cast album of Lanie Robertson's play with music Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, starring five-time Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald as late singer Billie Holiday.

Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

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.

Read the reviews here.

The album is being recorded during the May 27-31 performances. It will be produced by Tommy Krasker, who previously helmed Ms. McDonald’s first three solo albums. PS Classics will release the cast album July 15. It can be pre-ordered at

Reached for comment, Krasker told, "I was so fortunate to work with Audra on her first three solo albums, and since then, she's joined us on so many PS Classics projects. How could we not record something that seemed to both me and Philip [Chaffin, co-founder of PS Classics] to be the most astonishing work she's done to date? And we all agreed – Audra, myself, Philip, [director] Lonny [Price] – that recording live was the way to go. 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. 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 production garnered Tony nominations for Best Actress (McDonald) and Best Sound Design (Steve Canyon Kennedy). The engagement was extended to Aug. 10 at Circle in the Square.

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


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