McDonald will begin filming the play before a live audience
in New Orleans this month. It is based on Holiday's performance,
one of her last, at a small Philadelphia bar shortly before her
death in 1959 at the age of 44.
The singer, who won a best-actress Tony for her performance in
the show, which was written by Lanie Robertson, became the only
woman to win a Tony in all four acting categories and six
She also tied with the late actress Julie Harris, who had six
wins, including a special lifetime achievement award.
"Playing Billie Holiday in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill'
on Broadway was one of the most challenging and artistically
rewarding experiences of my career, and it is an absolute honor
to be able to bring Lanie's incredible work about this
extraordinary women to film, thanks to HBO," McDonald said in a
Holiday is considered one of the greatest jazz singers ever. She
was nicknamed "Lady Day" by saxophonist Lester Young. The show
depicts her life through songs such as "God Bless the Child,"
"Crazy He Call Me" and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," as well
as reminiscences with the audience.
The film will be directed by Lonny Price, who also helmed the
Broadway show, according to HBO, a unit of Time Warner Inc.
No date for the airing of the special has been set.
The play, which debuted off-Broadway about 30 years ago, opened
on Broadway in April and was extended several times before
closing in August.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.