What is Ladies Day the Musical?
Ladies Day is a play that takes place on a stage set in South Philadelphia in the March of 1959. Billie Holiday performing in a run-down bar, which would be one of her last performances before her untimely death later that summer in July 1959. She sings next to Jimmy Powers who played on the piano and tells the stories of her life as she increasingly becomes intoxicated and incoherent.
Who is Billie Holiday?
One of America’s most influential jazz vocalists from the 1930 to the 1950’s. Billie Holiday was a swing music singer whose vocal styles were strongly inspired by jazz instrumentals, pioneering a new way of manipulating phrases and tempos. She was born Eleanora Fagan in 1915 and dropped out of school in fifth grade. Holiday grew up having a rough life, but found her way out when she began to perform. Her singing style was deeply moving and individual to only her during that era. Unfortunately she passed away at the age of 44 at 3:10 a.m. on July 17th, 1059 of a pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver due to heavy drinking. Holidays most popular song was, Carelessly released in 1937, which was a #1 on the hit music charts.
Billie Holiday had more than her share of tragedies before her passing. Her mother was a teen mother and her father was a musician named Clarence Holiday. As a child she lived in poverty and was even abducted and assaulted by an old neighbor. She went to a reformatory school before dropping out altogether. Then at the age of 13 things somehow got worse when she and her mother moved to New York City. She became the victim of sex trafficing and was subsequently arrest because of it. All before the age of fifteen.
Finally at the age of 18 she was discovered by Benny Goodman’s record producer. She was in movies and had regular singing gigs. She was still treated poorly though, because of her color. She was all this time addicted to drugs and heroin. Her love life wasn’t much better ending in drugs and abuse mostly.
Billie Holiday died sick and poor handcuffed to a hospital bed. Since Holiday’s death she has been enrolled into The Hall of Fame and won numerous Grammy’s. Her story is known to many with musicals and movies punctuated by her tragedies, but her life story speaks to much more such as triumph of perseverance, strength of conviction, and the courage to have her voice heard in a time of immense racial injustice and descrimination.
The musical Lady Day is back at certain theaters after being postponed due to the pandemic and you can get tickets today and hear some of Billie Holiday’s greatest songs while the story of her life unfolds on stage in front of you. She has been played by other famous actresses such as Andra Day in the new 2022 movie and Audra McDonald in the musical Lady Day.