''He (Lester Young) called me 'Lady' because I was one, and 'Day' because I would shine like the midnight sun,'' says Corliss Taylor-Dunn as Billie Holiday in this musical portrait of the legendary jazz singer.
Unfortunately, ''Lady Day'' (written and directed by Stephen Stahl) makes Miss Holiday no lady - and makes her shine only fitfully. Miss Taylor-Dunn does her best. She has spunk and a racehorse vitality; and if her voice doesn't re-create Miss Holiday's, it's pleasant enough on its own. And the songs, 21 of them, are terrific: ''My Man,'' ''Good Morning Heartache,'' ''God Bless the Child.'' But songs alone do not a portrait make.
The problem is the book: It's a whiny, self-indulgent parade of woes. The show opens with Miss Holiday rehearsing for her first Broadway show. She has opening-night jitters and pours out snarled snippets of her life - everybody who ever left her, the abuse as a child, the drugs, the alcohol. The second act is her opening night, complete with drunken monologue and cliched triumphant recovery.
The traumas in this singer's life are well known. But in focusing the whole show on them, Stahl has missed the spark in Holiday that made her talent soar over them. (At the Next Move Theatre through June 24.)