“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” exquisite with Deidrie Henry as Billie Holiday

Review: ‘LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL’ starring DEIDRIE HENRY at the Garry Marshall Theatre through June 9.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
Deidrie Henry as Billie Holiday
(photo credit Aaron Batzdorff)

 “Singing was always the best part of living for me,” says Billie Holiday in the show “LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL.”

 That is expressed by the exquisite portrait painted by another unforgettable singer, Deidrie Henry, who stars as the legendary Holiday in “LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL” at The Garry Marshall Theatre. It’s a must-see for music lovers who enjoy great songs well sung, and appreciate the stories behind the songs and the struggles of the artists who have gifted the world with their talent.

 Henry does not imitate Holiday by simply putting gardenias in her hair. Henry embodies her fully and the deep feeling in Lady Day’s bones that “singing is living.” She weaves her magic with her tunes that have a “blues feeling and a jazz beat,” from the sassy “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” to the mournful “Strange Fruit.” But even when the songs are upbeat, Henry plays Holiday as a woman who bears the weight of injustice on her shoulders, yet her sense of humor shines through, telling her stories between songs and too many drinks. 

 The setting for the show is a small Philadelphia bar in 1959 where Holiday gave her last performances just four months before her death. Ironically, Holiday says, “When I die, I don’t care if I go to heaven or hell, long as it ain’t Philly.”  Henry hits all the right notes and is mesmerizing, capturing the intense yet fragile songbird/jailbird who is unapologetic about her troubled life.

 Humorous, profane, and emotional tales are revealed with almost every song. Some leave the audience stunned, only to be comforted by Lady Day’s musical legacy that includes “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” “Them There Eyes,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” “Easy Living,” “When a Woman Loves a Man,” “Somebody’s On My Mind,” “Gimme A Pigfoot and A Bottle of Beer,” and “God Bless the Child.”

Abdul Hamid Royal as Jimmy Powers (and the Musical Director for the play) on piano, James Leary on bass. (photo credit Aaron Batzdorff)

 Two superb musicians share the stage with Deidrie Henry. Musical Director Abdul Hamid Royal plays Jimmy Powers, the piano player helping Holiday during her final days. James Leary is the Bass Player who joins Powers and both wow the crowd with their jazz solos.

 Deftly directed with haunting nuance by Gregg T. Daniel (“The Mountaintop”), an authentic nightclub mood is created by scenic consultant Tanya Orellana, lighting designer Tom Ontiveros, and the outstanding team behind the scenes.

Special limited On-Stage “Nightclub” seating is available to enjoy the show in an exciting way. The VIP experience includes a complimentary bottle of wine or champagne (must be 21+), served at your table for two.

Also for one night only – on Friday, May 31, a live post-show conversation with Academy and Grammy Award-winner Paul Williams. Deidrie Henry will join Williams as they open up the room to a discussion of music, entertainment, addiction, and recovery.

 “LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL,” by Lanie Robertson, plays through Sunday, June 9, at the Garry Marshall Theatre located at 4252 W Riverside Dr. in Burbank. For information and tickets call (818) 955-8101 or visit GarryMarshallTheatre.org.


Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.