After living in New York City for 25 years now I’ve learned to avoid going to Times Square. There are too many people clogging the sidewalks and not much to lure me there, as I don’t require anything from souvenir shops and franchise restaurants. I was drawn there recently though by the chance to spend some time with one of the most talented and charming figures in jazz, the award-winning vocalist, actress, producer and broadcaster Dee Dee Bridgewater, who plays Billie Holiday in the newest incarnation of the musical Lady Day at the Little Shubert Theatre on West 42nd Street. I met with Dee Dee in the Eugenia Room above the legendary restaurant Sardi’s for a delightful 30 minutes of conversation about this new project that is in essence a continuation of her relationship with the late Eleanor Fagan, AKA Billie Holiday, that began years ago.
Having spent some time with Dee Dee in various settings over the years, and knowing her to be one of the most engaging and personable spirits in jazz, we seemed able to pick up where we had left off over a few years ago. My first thought was that the mysterious Billie Holiday, who certainly possessed some pretty obvious demons that were known to all, was a deep and talented person. Anyone who would attempt to play such a person in any form of depiction be it a musical performance, play or recording would have to possess similar depth and talent. Dee Dee Bridgewater is exactly that person. She’s an international star of the highest order with multiple Grammy Awards, A Tony Award for her previous work on the Broadway musical The Wiz, and a nomination for London’s Olivier Award for her work in an earlier incarnation of Lady Day that was also presented in Paris, both in the late 1980’s.