www.montereycountynow.com june 20-26, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 27 ON STAGE A little bit of moonlight may have been what Billie Holiday asked for, but it was all Carmel needed. Local actress Malinda DeRouen was the one to bring Holiday’s beautiful, albeit tragic, story to life. Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill is a performative memoir of the jazz and swing legend Billie Holiday, written by Lanie Robertson and directed by Lisa Gaye Dixon. The play is set at a seedy bar—Emerson’s Bar & Grill—in 1959 Philadelphia, where audience members are seated at both cocktail tables and row seating, becoming one with the performance. The story takes place four months before Holiday died. DeRouen plays Holiday, aka Lady Day, alongside pianoman Jimmy Powers, played by local composer John Wineglass. Powers attempts to hold the show together as it seems to fall to pieces while she narrates the comedic and crushing stories of her lived experiences, often the only Black musician in a majority-white band. DeRouen’s portrayal of Holiday’s tragedy is palpable, her only tether to reality is showmanship and dedication to entertaining the guests in Emerson’s. She seems almost imprisoned by Powers’ tunes. Wineglass’ portrayal is kind, with a gentle “don’t stop dancing” attitude that ultimately led to Holiday’s untimely death. Her passion for music is matched only by the misfortune she experienced. Throughout the entire performance, the audience is left wondering whether Holiday will die tonight. DeRouen delivers an eerie, exceptional performance that captures everything that Holiday was, including her voice. The play is more than homage to Holiday—it’s a story about the death of great and underrepresented musicians of the era. The performance showcases real blows and setbacks to Holiday’s career, like those of so many other Black artists suffered while chained to the ball of racism in early to mid-20th-century U.S. New Canon is now known for pushing the envelope and they’ve been doing so because they’re fighting for those in the arts who are misrepresented, or not represented at all. The allegory of prison is felt throughout the performance. And as the legend herself says thematically, “You ever hear a dead person singing?” Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill continues for a final weekend with shows at 7:30pm Friday, June 21; 2pm and 7:30pm Saturday, June 22; and 2pm Sunday, June 23. Sunset Center, 9th and San Carlos, Carmel. $35. newcanontheatre.org. GLEN MCDOWELL PHOTOGRAPHY Triumph and Tragedy New Canon’s production of Billie Holiday on the edge is an engaging, immersive experience. By Sloan Campi Malinda DeRouen as singer Billie Holiday and John Wineglass as pianist Jimmy Powers recreate 1959 Emerson’s Bar & Grill, complete with haunting music and pervasive racism. 8940 Carmel Valley Rd 831-293-7500