Theatre Thursday: Holler if Ya Hear Me Redux

A long time ago, in a galaxy somewhere near South Central Pennsylvania, I promised my gentle readers updates on Holler if Ya Hear Me, the upcoming musical based on the music of Tupac Shakur. The musical, directed by the esteemed Kenny Leon (the director of Broadway’s Raisin in the Sun, currently showing), will not engage with the story of Tupac’s life, but rather will use his music to tell a different story. Songs such as “California Love” and “Keep Ya Head Up” will score the story of two friends growing up in a low-income neighborhood in the Midwest. As the press notes mention, “through the poetry of one of the 20th century’s most influential and culturally prominent voices, [Holler if Ya Hear Me] will give a window into realities of the streets still relevant today”.
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Theatre Thursdays: Lady Day

audra-mcdonald-lady-day-2014-02Billie “Lady Day” Holiday was born in April 1915 and died a short forty-four years later. In that time, Holiday changed the face of jazz music, writing and performing songs that would become part of the history of the genre, including “Lover Man” and “God Bless the Child”. Her “Strange Fruit”, a protest song about the lynching of Black men all across the American South, would become one of the most famous songs of its era. Since her death from cirrhosis of the liver, she has been lauded by all manner of greats, including Ray Ellis and venerable music critic Robert Christgau. Even before her death, Frank Sinatra would say of her:

With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.

Clarke, Donald: Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon

All reflection on Billie Holiday tells the story of a life cut short by addiction, and a career of unknown potential snuffed out too soon. So, too, will the 2014 production of Lanie Robertson’s 1986 play in the upcoming revival of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, which will feature Audra McDonald as Holiday.

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