Billie! Backstage with Lady Day Returns to Oceanside Theatre Company’s Brooks Theater for One Weekend Only on July 28-30
Synthia L. Hardy brings the story of Billie Holiday to life in vibrant show
(Oceanside, CA) June 26, 2023 – Intimate. Intense. Visceral. Playwright, actress, and singer Synthia L. Hardy returns to the Brooks Theater for one weekend only in Billie! Backstage with Lady Day on July 28-30, 2023. Her award-winning one-woman show about Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz and blues performers of all time, received glowing reviews in its 2022 San Diego Premiere.
“We are thrilled to bring Synthia Hardy and her fabulous production back to the Brooks,” said OTC Managing Director Alex Goodman. “Audiences loved her vivid portrayal of Billie Holiday last year and OTC is honored to bring Billie! Backstage with Lady Day around again for the summer season. The unique glimpse into Billie’s personal life, Ms. Hardy’s incredible embodiment of the jazz icon, and, of course, the timeless music brought to life with a full band concert in the second act come together for a fabulous night out in the heart of Oceanside’s Cultural District.”
Part theater, part concert, the musical, written by Hardy and directed by Bryan Rasmussen combines storytelling and song to capture the essence of Billie Holiday’s music and life. When the show first debuted in Los Angeles, Hardy won the NAACP Theatre Award for Best One Person Show, as well as two Artistic Director Achievement Awards (A.D.A.) – Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and Best One Person Show – for Billie! Backstage With Lady Day.
“I have always loved jazz and the big band sound. Growing up I would just hear the different people in my family, the adults talking about Billie Holiday and all of those things and then one day, I can’t tell you what clicked to make me say I wanted to write her story,” said Hardy in a 2022 interview with Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti in From Another Zero.
The performance takes place in two distinct parts. In the first act, Hardy as Holiday breaks the fourth wall to speak to the audience, giving them the role of reporters interviewing her in her dressing room backstage. As she answers the unspoken questions, her turbulent life story unfolds – combating racism, navigating abusive relationships, and enduring multiple arrests.
Accompanied by “Piano Man,” whose role will be played this July by pianist Lanny Hartley, she sets up the context and inspiration for a variety of her popular numbers including the haunting “Strange Fruit,” as well as “God Bless the Child,” “Good Morning Heartache,” and “Lover Man” before slipping into the songs themselves. Audiences learn about Holiday’s mother, father, and lovers as she entwines biography and performance.
“Ultimately, this production hustles and breathes on its own to bring an icon to life before our eyes. While Billie! does not shy away from the abuse that its titular superstar and the Black community faced at the hands of society in her era, at the end of the day, it serves as a celebration of a woman of excellence, her resilience, and her many great contributions to the industry and the world,” wrote Cassiopeia Guthrie in San Diego Story of the 2022 performance.
In the second act, Hardy embodies Lady Day, in a live concert with a jazz quartet. She sings several of Billie’s hits including “’Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” and “Willow, Weep for Me.”
“Hardy’s physical and acting performance as Holiday is excellent,” wrote Pam Kragen in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “She’s also a strong singer…She re-creates Holiday’s breathy, swooping singing style and Holiday’s vocal improvisation skills…”
About Writer and Performer Synthia L. Hardy
Emmy Award-winner Synthia L. Hardy has appeared in film, T.V., commercials and on stage nationally and internationally – most recently in the film, Sylvie’s Love. In addition to her NAACP Theatre Awards and Artistic Director Achievement Awards for Billie! Backstage With Lady Day, Hardy won an Emmy Award for the documentary, “Precious Memories: A Stroll Down 47th Street.” Her other awards and nominations include another NAACP Theatre Award, Dramalogue Critics Award (twice), and LA Weekly Award. Originally from Chicago, Hardy has appeared in a variety of works including Home, Merry Wives of Windsor, Flyin’ West; Rap Master Ronnie, The Little Dreamer: A Night in the Life of Bessie Smith and A Corner of Gold. As a singer, she toured with various Oldies and Doo Wop tribute groups. She has also written and starred in her own cabaret show, Dinner Musicale with Synthia & Friends.
About Director Bryan Rasmussen
An award-winning actor, director, producer, teacher, coach and Artistic Director of The Whitefire Theatre, Bryan has produced over 200 shows including over 50 world premieres. He recently directed the world premiere solo show Evolution of Soul 685 and the solo-musical Down the Rabbit Hole with pop star Erin Jividen, which opened off-Broadway. He also founded the famous Itchy Foot Cabaret in downtown L.A. His work includes: directing and starring in the 50th Anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, directing the world premieres of the eco-musical Season of Change and Mark Twain in the 21st Century, producing Judy Tenuda’s Mountain Girl Musical, directing his critically-acclaimed version of Blood Brothers, and is currently performing in and producing Shorts. On screen, he has been seen on Southland, Scandal, Bones, The Mentalist and countless others.
About Oceanside Theatre Company
Oceanside Theatre Company (OTC), the resident professional theater company operating the Historic Brooks Theater in downtown Oceanside, is a focal point of the Oceanside California Cultural District (OCCD). OTC’s mission is to produce professional theatrical, visual art and musical productions for the entertainment and enrichment of the community, present educational opportunities in the arts for children and adult, and provide a safe, state-of-the-art public venue for expansion of artistic endeavors in North San Diego County and greater southern California. OTC produces a four-show mainstage theatre season in the 198-seat venue, as well as a Music Series, play readings and various other events in the adjacent black box theater, Studio 219. An important part of OTC’s mission is inspiring and sharing the arts with local youth through the Youth Theater Arts Program, which includes Summer Theater Camps and Youth Theater Arts Outreach in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Oceanside during the school year. To learn more visit www.oceansidetheatre.org.
Billie! Backstage with Lady Day Press Photos
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Photos by Ted Leib