Like Ella, this one-woman biographical musical, directed by Phyllis Cicero, allows for lots of songs, interspersed with personal monologues about the men that got away. Dallas actress and cabaret diva M. Denise Lee may not look a lot like Billie Holiday, but she gets to the essence of the legendary singer from the first note of Strange Fruit. Set in 1959, the show takes the audience into a smoky Philly dive where Lady Day was slumming for drinks and tips. Shed lost her right to sing in swanky Manhattan clubs after a felony narcotics charge and was just months from losing her life to cirrhosis of the liver. (On her death bed, she was arrested again and died with a mere 70 cents in the bank.) Lee is as strong an actress as she is a singer, so she taps into Holidays weary sadness, particularly in the shows haunting second act. Lee bends those notes in and out of the key, just like the lady with the gardenia in her hair. Great little show that showcases Lees splendid vocals.
Full review at: First Ladies of Jazz Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 7. Continues through Feb. 17, 2008