Billie Holiday: Front and Center

Critics

LemonMeter

88 %

Reviews: 4

Audience

LemonMeter

Reviews: 0

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) was a trail-blazing musical artist, known as perhaps the first female vocalist to use her voice in the style of jazz improvisation. Recording first with Benny Goodman, she became the first Black female vocalist to front a white band, that of Artie Shaw. She also performed with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. She had long professional associations with saxophonist Lester Young (who named her Lady Day; she called him Prez) and pianist Teddy Wilson.

Born to poverty in Philadelphia, she was a victim of sexual assault while still a child and sentenced by the court to a Catholic correctional institution. It was only her first experience with the court, however. She was convicted at age 13 (along with her mother) of prostitution. Subsequent arrests involved possession of narcotics and substance abuse.

Despite a turbulent life, abusive relationships, and racism, she prevailed to become one of the greatest jazz and blues artists of her time, before her untimely demise at age 42 from cirrhosis of the liver. In addition to multiple hit recordings, she sold out Carnegie Hall three times.

Writer-performer Sybil D. Jatta brings Holiday’s story to vibrant life in the new show Billie Holiday: Front and Center. Ms. Jatta portrays multiple characters and sings a selection of songs that comprise an array of Holiday’s greatest hits, among them God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, All of Me, Don’t Explain, My Man, Good Morning Heartache, many more. Ms. Jatta is accompanied live by jazz musicians.

Sybil D. Jatta is a Phoenix native who first portrayed Holiday in the touring musical Sang Sista Sang, produced by Smokey Robinson, Mickey Stevenson and B’ANCA. Ms. Jatta’s other stage credits include The Music Man, Jesus Christ Superstar, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Little Shop of Horrors, Simply Heavenly and her own show Just Let Me Sing. Her film and TV credits include Veep, Deliver Us From Eva, Two Can Play That Game, The Sarah Silverman Show, Strong Medicine and more.

Reviews

Shari Barrett

Writer-performer Sybil D. Jatta adds real emotional depth to the story as she perfectly phrases a selection of songs that comprise an array of Holiday's greatest hits, among them God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, All of Me, Don't Explain, My Man, Good Morning Heartache, many more. To be in Jatta's presence is as close to being dazzled by the real Jazz icon herself, from a poor young girl to a glamorous star!

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


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Jatta, the writer/performer, is clearly dedicated to Holiday’s memory. She is a phenomenal vocalist with a stellar voice. She commands attention through channeling the beloved singer during the tribute performances. Yet, half the job demands acting out the vignettes that illustrate Holiday’s life. This is where Jatta falls short, as her acting is timid and restrained...

sweet-sour - Nikki Munoz - Stage Raw - ...read full review


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Sybil really channels Billie Holiday when she sings, so the songs are a joy. And there are over a dozen of them in this show, which showcase some of Holiday’s greatest hits, including the classics God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, All of Me, My Man, and Good Morning Heartache.

And the quartet of live musicians right on the intimate stage makes the show even more special!

sweet - Karen Salkin - It's Not About Me - ...read full review


Avatar

Along with the acting, it’s the music and vocals that make this show really happen!

For those that desire for their theater peppered with jazz/blues music, or their jazz and blues music set with an additional back story, this presentation is flawless. And as the title suggests, it’s all front and center!

sweet - Rich Borowy - Accessibly Live Off-Line - ...read full review


Shari Barrett

Writer-performer Sybil D. Jatta adds real emotional depth to the story as she perfectly phrases a selection of songs that comprise an array of Holiday's greatest hits, among them God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, All of Me, Don't Explain, My Man, Good Morning Heartache, many more. To be in Jatta's presence is as close to being dazzled by the real Jazz icon herself, from a poor young girl to a glamorous star!

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


Avatar

Jatta, the writer/performer, is clearly dedicated to Holiday’s memory. She is a phenomenal vocalist with a stellar voice. She commands attention through channeling the beloved singer during the tribute performances. Yet, half the job demands acting out the vignettes that illustrate Holiday’s life. This is where Jatta falls short, as her acting is timid and restrained...

sweet-sour - Nikki Munoz - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Avatar

Sybil really channels Billie Holiday when she sings, so the songs are a joy. And there are over a dozen of them in this show, which showcase some of Holiday’s greatest hits, including the classics God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, All of Me, My Man, and Good Morning Heartache.

And the quartet of live musicians right on the intimate stage makes the show even more special!

sweet - Karen Salkin - It's Not About Me - ...read full review


Avatar

Along with the acting, it’s the music and vocals that make this show really happen!

For those that desire for their theater peppered with jazz/blues music, or their jazz and blues music set with an additional back story, this presentation is flawless. And as the title suggests, it’s all front and center!

sweet - Rich Borowy - Accessibly Live Off-Line - ...read full review