Jennifer Holliday Is A Diamond That Shines Brilliantly Inside and Out
In 1981 Jennifer Holliday achieved worldwide fame as Effie White in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. In 2016 she won Broadway back as Shug Avery in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple. Last night she won over fans and anyone else who was in the audience of the prestigious Diamond Series, at 54 Below.
Starting out with “I Ain’t Been Licked” by Ashford and Simpson, Holliday showed not only was she here to stay, but an artist to be reckoned with.
The Diana Ross song “My Turn,” took on a new meaning as she thanked the audience for being there and chose this time to spend this time with her. She stated “You are my friends” and we the audience felt blessed to be there.
The Kern and Fields standard from Swingtime “Pick Yourself Up,” had Holliday talking about fame and how fleeting it is.
Re-creating two signature songs “I Am Changing” from Dreamgirlsand “Push Da Button” from The Color Purple, made you feel as if you missed some of the best Broadway moments and now you have a chance to rediscover them. I was there for both moments and this moment was like time stood still.
Next up was a haunting version of Billie Holliday’s and Arthur Herzog Jr. “God Bless The Child.”
“The Way He Makes Me Feel” from Yentl was sexy, sensual and allowed Ms. Holliday to share how when she was in Dreamgirls, she was 19 going on 20 years old and Streisand told her that she should not lose weight because that’s what she was known for and they tried to make her fix her nose when she got in the business and that the things that we are associated with make us us.”
“The Cole Porter Medley” allowed Ms. Holliday’s music director/pianist Rashad McPherson arrangements shine. On that note bass guitarist: Criston Oates, drummer: Shawn Dustin, lead guitarist: Andrew Jagannath, saxophone: Craig Hill, trumpet: Ryan Easter and Trombonist: Javon Johnson, all had chances to share the spotlight and Ms. Holliday put her own spin on these American songbook classics.
Putting her own spin again on a classic Harry Warren’s and Etta James’s “At Last,” Ms. Holliday’s chops and emotional connection to lyric showed, she may have spent some time trying to figure out where she belonged, but it was clear she has found her way.
Tina Turner’s classic “River Deep, Mountain High” had Ms. Holliday and her band killing it as the whole room started dancing.
Michael Bennett and Marvin Hamilish played big roles in Ms. Holliday’s life and she shared the high’s and low’s and then dedicated “What I Did For Love” to them. There wasn’t a dry eye.
And as the pièce de résistance a phenomenally sung “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” “I became a young woman and then a real woman and then a grown-ass woman, the song took on different meanings. It’s a song of survival today. It’s like, ‘And I’m telling you that I’m still here. I’m not going.’ So for me, more so than anything, it’s me telling the world — and telling myself — that I’m worthy to still be here and that I still have a lot more to offer.” All I can say to that is yes, yes and hell yes!
Ms. Holliday is a treat to 54 Below and anyone who is smart enough to get tickets for this one of a kind event. The Diamond Series is definitely a rare gem and you can still get tickets.
The Diamond Series Presents Jennifer Holliday until the 26th at 8:30 (doors open at 6 pm for dinner)
All photo’s and video Magda Katz
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: A Dolls House: Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain
I went with T2C’s editor to A Dolls House, which inspired this caricature. You can read Suzanna’s review of the show here.
T2C Sends Our Prayers to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lea Michele
Saturday, March 25, 2023
A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber
I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital. His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft.
Thank you for all your thoughts during this difficult time.
The 75-year-old Oscar-winning composer son Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps and was a successful composer in his own right, having written Fat Friends The Musical. He was married to musician Polly Wiltshire, who appeared on the soundtrack of his father’s 2019 movie Cats.
During his career, Nicholas also scored music for an adaption of The Little Prince as well as composing numerous TV and film scores, including for the BBC1 drama Loves, Lies, and Records.
Nicholas previously spoke about making his own way in the theatre world away from his famous family name in a 2011 unearthed interview.
He said he wanted to be ‘judged on his own merits’ so dropped his surname when working to see what the reaction would be.
Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.
Also on Saturday Lea Michele updated her fans on the status of her two-year-old’s health via her Instagram after he was hospitalized earlier this week. Her son Ever was in the hospital, but is now out due to a ‘scary health issue. She posted a picture backstage in her dressing room ahead of her Broadway performance in Funny Girl. Lea had been out to focus on her family.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for just so much love and support this week. I really really appreciated it”.
Parade: A Musical That Asks Us Do We Have The Eyes And Ears To See.
Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus
I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.
The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree.
The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.
Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.
The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.
Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”
In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.
In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.
Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.
Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.
Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.
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Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.