JAG Productions Joins Full-Ship African-American Music Festival At Sea
With Production of LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL
STARRING FRANCESCA HARPER
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT (December 3, 2018) - JAG Productions joins full-ship African-American music festival at sea with its production of the profound jazz musical, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. JAG’s production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a haunting play with captivating insights of the life of one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, will be featured amongst the many brilliant performances that Capital Jazz Fest has selected for its full-ship music festival at sea, a cruise that will depart from Florida to visit Haiti, Honduras, Belize and Mexico starting January 17, 2019 on Royal Carribbean's Independence of the Seas cruise ship.
This past summer, from May 24 to June 10, 2018, JAG presented a three city-run production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, across three locations in Vermont, including Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington. Directed by producing artistic director Jarvis Green, the production has earned nominations by Broadway World for Theater of the Year, Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical for lead actress Francesca Harper, as well as Best Actor in a Musical for Nygel Robinson. During its Burlington run, Capital Jazz noticed the quality of the performance and the powerful story it carried, and the the rest will become history come January.
Written by Lanie Robertson, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill was first performed in 1986. This play with music re-imagines one of Billie Holiday’s final performances. In 1959, Holiday returned to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, for a gig in a dive bar called Emerson’s Bar and Grill. In Robertson’s dramatization of this performance, dressed in white and donning long white gloves, Holiday shares stories about her stormy personal life, her battle with addiction and, of course, sings. The play is rich with the singer’s signature songs: “God Bless the Child,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” “Strange Fruit,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” and more. Between numbers, as she chats up the audience, her monologues become biting and raw as she recounts the racism that plagued her life and her generation. Four months after this concert, at the age of 44, the legend died. The play is a stirring, simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-opening, unforgettable one and JAG is looking forward to take to Capital Jazz Fest in January.
Performers from previous years who graced the stage of the Capital Jazz Fest cruise have included India Arie, Chrisette Michele, Kirk Franklin, and Damien Escobar. In January 2019, the artists featured alongside JAG Productions’ Lady Day will include Gregory Porter, Sheila E, Chantae Cann, Madison McFerrin, The Floacist, two-time Grammy-nominated jazz duo The Baylor Project, and many others.
The cast of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill is lead by Francesca Harper as Billie Holiday and Jeff Bolding as Jimmy Powers. Harper is an internationally acclaimed multi-faceted artist. After being named Presidential Scholar in the Arts and performing at the White House, Harper performed soloist roles with the Dance Theater of Harlem and spent several years as a principal in William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt. Her Broadway credits include Fosse, The Producers, All Shook Up, The Frogs and the Tony Award winning treasure The Color Purple. She was also a featured performer in Zinnias - The Life of Clementine Hunter directed by Robert Wilson, with Libretto by Civil Rights Activist Bernice Reagon. Her Principal acting roles include starring opposite Molly Ringwald in Sweet Charity and performing the role of Judith originated on Broadway by Judith Jamison in Sophisticated Ladies.
Since its creation in 2015, JAG Productions has been focusing on creating theater to engage challenging issues of race, gender, sexuality and identity. The organization was founded by Jarvis Green and exists to produce classic and contemporary African-American theatre; to serve as an incubator of new work that excites broad intellectual engagement; and thereby, to catalyze compassion, empathy, love and community through shared understandings of humankind.
In the company’s first season (2016-2017), JAG Productions established itself as an institution of merit, producing two highly impactful theatre pieces (August Wilson’s Fences and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy), one child-focused play (inspired by the events of The Little Rock 9, Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical), and two multidisciplinary, weekend performing arts festivals of new works (JAGfest 1.0 & 2.0) – all celebrating the talents of African-American playwrights and performing artists. JAG is firmly grounded in the region, and accordingly, we stage our performances in venues of Upper Valley communities. Over 4,000 Upper Valley theater goers and 600 students from 9 schools have attended JAG performances to date. In recognition of its work, JAG Productions was recently honored by The New England Theater Conference (NETC) as the 2017 recipient of the Regional Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Theatre. This would be a very significant accomplishment for any New England theatre company, but as this was our premiere season, it was a particularly exciting recognition of JAG’s work. JAG Productions sees itself as playing a role in bringing diverse actors and stories to the stage and to the Upper Valley. The staging of Fences in 2017 was the initial production of a 10-year commitment to staging The American Century Cycle, August Wilson’s series of ten plays charting the African American experience through the twentieth century.
Capital Jazz Productions have produced Capital Jazz Fest since 1993, a full-ship music festival at sea. Much more than just a "jazz cruise" or urban-themed cruise, the SuperCruise is in a class by itself. It is a music-lover's paradise, featuring a diverse lineup of jazz and soul music from the old-school and the new, as well as theatre, comedy, gospel, funk, and more. The experience also includes jam sessions, workshops, dance classes, and much more.