Dramaworks’ “Lady Day” Is A Tour De Force Play With Music

Tracey Conyer Lee

Tracey Conyer Lee

By Bill Hirschman,, Special to, May 22, 2015 – Veil after veil are slowly stripped away from the elegant sophisticated stage persona that is “Billie Holiday” until standing exposed is a blunted devastated victim of racism, sexism and abuse – some imposed and some self-inflicted — in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ incisive Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.

Although the play occurs during a single club date, actress Tracey Conyer Lee and director J. Barry Lewis successfully chart Holiday’s disintegration over decades. They do this as each succeeding number and interstitial banter with the audience devolves, each echoing a particular state of mind in a chapter from her deteriorating life arc.

The play-with-music requires a singer who can recreate 16 of Holiday’s standards in her idiosyncratic but recognizable voice. But equally, it requires a skilled actress comfortable as a storyteller but who slowly reveals the ravaged soul. Lee, under Lewis’ practiced eye, is fully up to the task – entertaining one moment and deeply affecting the next.