Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Pearl Bailey ... By Request
Also see Susan's review of 1 Henry IV
Bailey had a prominent career on Broadway, including the all-black cast of Hello, Dolly!, and also appeared in movies and on television; the hallmark of her live performances was her ability to make a personal connection with her audiences. She earned a bachelor's degree in theology from Georgetown University in her later years, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988; she died two years later.
White embodies the sleek, sassy Bailey in her prime, carrying on a conversation with the MetroStage audience (including a few tables in the front) and sharing stories of Bailey's past in between highlights of her singing career. Her rapport with viewers includes asking to borrow the shoes of a woman in the front row.
Highlights of the performance include "A Woman's Prerogative" and "Legalize My Name," Bailey's two show-stoppers from the 1946 musical St. Louis Woman (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer); juicy duets of "The Hucklebuck" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with singer-trumpeter Hot Lips Page (embodied by the winning William Hubbard); and a pulsing, up-tempo "St. Louis Blues."
Director Shirley Basfield Dunlap keeps spirits high and the pacing fast. Musical director and pianist Marvin Ford fronts a spirited combo that also includes guitarist David Cole, bassist Yusef Chisholm, and drummer Greg Holloway.