It’s official. Five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald will star as legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in Lanie Robertson’s play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill for a limited run at ten-week run at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The show takes the place of Bronx Bombers, which closes this Sunday.
Preview performances begin March 25 in advance of an April 10 opening. The production will be staged by Lonnie Price, who has previously collaborated with McDonald on 110 in the Shade for the Roundabout Theatre Company and concert versions of Sweeney Todd for the New York Philharmonic and Passion as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.
McDonald has won Tonys for The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, A Raisin in the Sun, Master Class, Ragtime, and Carousel. She is tied with Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris for the most Tonys wins by a performer. Her husband, Will Swenson, will also be starring on Broadway this season in the revival of Les Miserables.
Robertson’s Lady Day was previously presented Off-Broadway in 1986 in a production starring Lonette McKee. Set in a small, intimate Philadelphia bar, the play recreates one of Holliday’s last public performance in 1959. Earlier this season, Tony winner Dee Dee Bridgewater appeared in another show about Holiday, Lady Day: The Billie Holiday Musical written and directed by Stephen Stahl, at the Little Shubert Theater.