Review: Woman Before A Glass, Jermyn Street

“Modern art is never an answer, it is a question”

Woman Before A Glass may be a one-woman show but what a woman it reveals to us. Peggy Guggenheim was born into one of the wealthiest New York socialite families at the dawn of the twentieth century and during a most unconventional lifetime, became a mainstay of the modern art scene. The art, and artists, that she collected made her Venetian palazzo one of the hottest spots to be seen and it is there that we visit her for the three key scenes of this play by Lanie Robertson.

The first is introduced with a wonderfully clever conceit – searching for an outfit to wear for an interview, she sifts through a pile of couture gowns, reminiscing about them all and thus giving us an instant insight into her existence – a strained relationship with her family both immediate and extended, an apparently insatiable sexual appetite, and a genuine love for the collection, protection and encouragement of the modern artists that she gathered around her. Plus she has a nifty way with a cocktail shaker. Continue reading “Review: Woman Before A Glass, Jermyn Street”

Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Wyndham’s

“Nothing rates above you”

Sometimes the hype is entirely justified. Six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald has the incredible record of winning in all possible categories whether lead or supporting, play or musical, the only actor to ever do so, and so it is a little appropriate that her long-awaited UK stage debut comes in the form of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a play where she gets to do a whole lotta singing. Read my 5 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval) 
Booking until 9th September

CD Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (2014 Original Broadway Recording)

“All I know is that I’m in love with you”
Not a huge amount more to say about Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill that wasn’t covered in my review of the show when I caught up with on HBO in lieu of it actually opening in the West End. The two-disc cast recording replicates Audra McDonald’s stunning performance as Billie Holiday at the addiction-addled tail-end of her career in Lanie Robertson’s play with music. McDonald is striking indeed as the chanteuse in all her mood swings governed by the level of drink and drugs she’s imbibed and she sounds considerably different as she fully inhabits the character. 
With the song patter included, in all its sad and sorry story-telling though, it’s not the most dynamic of things to listen to. Maybe if I hadn’t seen it on screen so recently I’d feel differently but it really does seem like something is missing – without the visuals to complete the show, it is exposed as an impersonation – no matter how good that impersonation is – of jazz when the real thing is so easy to come by. I’d recommend tracking down the HBO recording rather than this album in all honesty.

TV Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill

“I want my own club, some place where I can sing for all my friends. What else is there?”

London audiences will have to wait a little while longer to see Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill live, after its run at the Wyndham’s had to be postponed after Audra McDonald’s pleasant surprise discovery of her pregnancy. But if you’re impatient, then you can find a filmed version of the show on HBO, allowing you to get a glimpse of the performance of Billie Holiday that garnered McDonald her record-breaking sixth Tony and completing the clean sweep of all four acting categories.

If you were in the category of Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play with her, you might have felt a little aggrieved as Lanie Robertson’s writing falls squarely into the play with songs category – snatches of bio-drama interspersed with a nightclub set of the many of the tracks that made Holiday the legendary jazz performer that she was. Which when you’ve got one of the premier musical theatre actresses in the world on hand, puts you at something of a disadvantage! Continue reading “TV Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”