Arts and Entertainment

‘Lady Day and The Blues’ honors icon Billie Holiday

Bringing Billie Holiday to life will be gifted vocalist/entertainer Stacie Calkins, accompanied by a live five-piece jazz ensemble.  - PHOTO BY JASON GANWICH
Bringing Billie Holiday to life will be gifted vocalist/entertainer Stacie Calkins, accompanied by a live five-piece jazz ensemble.
— image credit: PHOTO BY JASON GANWICH

The music of Billie Holiday, considered by many to be the greatest of all jazz singers, comes to Centerstage Theatre for a one-night only benefit performance.

Billie Holiday poured her heart and soul into every song. Rising from a nightmarish childhood (a broken home, raped at 10 and sent away to a reform school, jailed at 14 for prostitution), her ability to interpret a song and make you feel it was unparalleled. She once sang to keep her mother from being evicted, bringing the audience to tears. Mal Waldron, her accompanist, summed it up best by saying “she had a way with words.”

Her voice’s quality wasn’t outstanding and her range was limited, but she had an uncanny ability to breathe life into a song, using things like pauses and slurs — which made the music an experience, rather than just a group of notes and a voice.

“If you find a tune that’s got something to do with you, you just feel it, and when you sing it, other people feel it, too,” Holiday once explained. According to the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music: “She was the first and is perhaps still the greatest of jazz singers, if the essence of jazz singing is to make the familiar sound fresh, and to make any lyric come alive with personal meaning for the listener.”

Bringing Billie Holiday to life will be gifted vocalist/entertainer Stacie Calkins, accompanied by a live five-piece jazz ensemble. Calkins is a highly respected vocalist and actor known primarily for her musical theatre work, notably leading roles in “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Dreamgirls,” “Aida” and “Ragtime.” Her voice has been described as “rich and resounding — the kind which melts your heart.” She “inhabits the stage the way Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith inhabited nightclubs in their heydays,” said theatre critic Alec Clayton.

Check it out: March 5

“Lady Day and The Blues” begins at 8 p.m. March 5 at the Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road in Federal Way. A $15 per person donation is requested. Visit www.centerstagetheatre.com or call (253) 661-1444.

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