Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
That sparkle you see in the light on the stage is not just the twinkle of gems. It is the performance of an upcoming star. With a body and attitude fitting for the big screen, Roz White captures the imagination of audiences with her true-to-the-letter performance of the sultry, easy blues styles of legendary vocalist Pearl Bailey in Pearl Bailey…By Request now playing until November 9th at the MetroStage Theater in Alexandria.
Dressed in dazzling black lace and blue satin, the White emerges from behind the stage curtain. Topped off with a white hat as shimmery as her jewels, she descends from a staircase and the music plays. A four-man jazz band carries her voice, and she is radiant, confident, and cool. It is this attitude that makes her attractive, and it is this same persona that Bailey’s fans from earlier generations will remember most.
Bailey’s career skyrocketed in the mid 1940s with her role the Broadway musical St. Louis Woman. Her success led to an award for her performance and later recognition for her acting. In 1967 her performance in an all-black cast production of Hello Dolly won her the prestigious Tony Award.
Bailey also enjoyed a career staring in Hollywood feature films and realized the production of her own major network television series The Pearl Bailey Show. In 1978, the Screen Actor’s Guild recognized Bailey for her “outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.”
Audiences expecting to learn more about the life of Bailey—her awards, accolades, achievements, her journey toward realizing her dreams—will be sourly disappointed. Pearl Bailey…By Request is not like Movin’ Out, the Broadway musical based on the life of pop pianist Billie Joel, which used Joel’s Top 40 hits as its score.
Instead, while audiences will be treated to authentic renditions of Bailey’s greatest songs, they will not find a performance of scenes documenting Bailey’s life and career. Rather a nightclub setting in a cozy, intimate theater sets the stage for an evening of song.
Such a venue capitalizes on White’s strengths as an actress and vocalist formally trained at the Duke Ellington School of Music and Howard University. In fact, it was at Howard University that White first conceived of the script for Pearl Bailey…By Request.
To find out more about the musical, read the article from an interview with the star of Pearl Bailey...By Request, Roz White.