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Sybil Harris as Billie Holiday in a song-filled bio with a live jazz combo.
WHAT: Billie Holiday: Front and Center. The acclaimed show with songs.
WHO: Written and performed by Sybil Harris. Directed by B’Anca. Musical director: Casey McCoy.
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 Harris brings her story to vibrant life in the new show Billie Holiday: Front and Center. Ms. Harris 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. Harris is accompanied live by jazz musicians.
Sybil Harris is a Phoenix native who first portrayed Holiday in the touring musical Sang Sista Sang, produced by Smokey Robinson, Mickey Stephenson and B’Anca. Harris’ 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.
B’Anca directs the new show. Co-director of the seven-year run of The Passion Play, a big-cast musical. Known for her work as a production stage manager, her credits include Once in a Lifetime (Obba Babatunde’s musical tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.), the NAACP Theatre Festival, and the Leimert Park Theatre Festival.
Musical director: Casey McCoy. Drums: Fritz Wise. Saxophone: David Patterson. Bass: Michael Saucier.
Billie Holiday: Front and Center had its World Premiere last year in South Pasadena at the Fremont Centre Theatre. The current engagement marks its first in the city of Los Angeles.
Billie Holiday: Front and Center promises an unforgettable portrait of an authentic American musical genius.
“For my money, Sybil’s performance is competitive with Diana Ross in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues.”---Ed Rampell, Hollywood Progressive
“Sybil Harris portrays Billie Holiday within the same mannerisms that mimic this woman down to her vocal pitches and rhythms.”---Rich Borowy, Accessibly Live
“Harris emotes a sparkling yet demure stage presence, commanding the audience, with her realistic portrayal of Billie Holiday’s glamorous aura.”---Bonnie Priever, Red Curtain Up
“A must-see class act performance.”---jazz legend Barbara Morrison
Presenter / Producer: Linda Bronson-Abbott
Theater > Musicals
Event Phone: 800-838-3006
Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center
4305 Degnan Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90008
LA - Central / Downtown
Performance Dates: 11/4/2017 - 12/3/2017
Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 3:00.
$30 general. $25 seniors (65+). The closing performance on December 3 will be a benefit for Bridge to Africa Connection honoring Ms. Dawn Sutherland. Tickets for the December 3 benefit will be $75 general admission and $150 V.I.P. ticket.
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