There’s been a lot of interest in the life of Jazz singer Billie Holiday recently, not so much for her artistry and innovation as a jazz artist, but more because of the way the US Government persecuted her for singing the 1939 song, “Strange Fruit”, a haunting song about a lynching.  “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” premiered online earlier this year.

Kalamazoo’s Farmer’s Alley Theater announced their upcoming season this week, and part of that season will be a moving production about the last days of Billie Holiday, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.”  The theater is partnering with the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, and the show will be running concurrently with the festival from April 29th thru May 15th.  The show takes place in 1959 at a seedy bar in Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie Holiday’s last performances, given four months before her death. More than a dozen musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous reminiscences to project a riveting portrait of the lady and her music. It’ll be directed by Shanisia Davis and will star Alexis J. Roston as Billie Holiday.

-GettyImages-50994149 Hulton Archive

Farmers Alley Theatre will kick off its season October 8th-24th with Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs For a New World.” The show will be directed by Broadway star and Kalamazoo native, Jerry Dixon (Once on this Island, Tick, Tick, Boom!). This powerful musical features a multi-cultural cast as they take you on a journey from the deck of a Spanish sailing ship to 30 stories high above Manhattan and all the way to the Stars and the Moon.

One of Farmers Alley Theatre’s most popular productions is returning with a festive holiday twist.  “Murder For Two” runs November 19th -December 12th.  Ten guests (or suspects) attend the surprise birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney who has just been killed. This hilarious whodunit is the perfect blend of music, mayhem, murder, and mistletoe!

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In 2022, Farmer’s Alley Theater will tackle to issue of truth and media, as one of Broadway’s hottest new plays, “The Lifespan of a Fact” goes up on February 11th, directed by D. Terry Williams.  It’s about a fresh-out-of-Harvard fact-checker for a prominent but sinking New York magazine and a talented writer with a transcendent essay about the suicide of a teenage boy—an essay that could save the magazine from collapse. The fact-checking result in the two having a funny and gripping battle over facts versus truth.

If your thing is irreverent, girl-powered comedy, you’ll love “The Revolutionists”, opening March 18th.   It’s set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.  Four beautiful, bad-ass women try to beat back the extremist insanity in 1793 Paris.  It’s been described as a “grand and dream-tweaked comedy about violence and legacy, art and activism, feminism and terrorism, compatriots and chosen sisters, and how we go about changing the world.

The season ends with the June 16th opening of “Bright Star”.  Set in the American South in the 1920s and 1940s, it’s a tale of love and redemption when a literary editor meets a young soldier just home from the war.

Farmer's Alley 2021-22 Season
Farmer's Alley 2021-22 Season

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