|Posted by Manila Mail under Enterntainment|
By Dino de la Rosa
“Ella,” conceived by director Rob Ruggiero and Dyke Garrison and book by Jeffrey Hatcher is a musical tribute on the life andmusic of the remarkable First Lady Of Song, Ella Fitzgerald and is currently playing at the temporary theater of Arena Stage in Crystal City. It is the first production in the Crystal City theater while its Southwest D.C. theater is going through major renovation that will take 29 months to complete.
Ella Fitzgerald is arguably the greatest female singer in jazz history. Ellas amazing body of work seemed to cry out for a theater piece celebrating the life of this woman,” said director Ruggiero. She shared many of the same personal battles as so many of us, including her own, painfully familiar, search for love. While this production highlights how she sparkled and triumphed as a performer it is also a rare glimpse of her vulnerability as a person. Ultimately in Ella, we are reminded why she has reamined a huge defining force in the music world for decades.”
Act 1 opens with Ella rehearsing for a major concert in Nice, France in 1966. In the middle of the rehearsal, her producer Norman Granz(Harold Dixon) asks her to incorporate patter to the show, a personal and intimate interaction with her audience. She objects at first as she had been private about her personal life , as she reluctantly agrees she begins a walk down memory lane to her past. She narrates the first time she entered the Amateur Night competition at age 15 at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. As she becomes a successful recording artist, she has a series of affairs with manipulative men- she marries and then divorces. What gets her through some tough times is her close relationship with her only sister. When her sister is unable to raise her son Ray Jr, Ella adopts him. But Ellas demanding career puts a strain on her relationship with Ray Jr. as she does a lot of concert tours abroad.
In Act 2, her series of shows in Nice, France are a spectacular success but she is devastated when she learns that her sister passed away. She is later reunited with her adopted son Ray Jr. who comes to watch her show. She croons the tearful Something To Live For to him.
Tina Fabrique, who was unforgettable in The Women Of Brewster Place,” returns to Arena Stage and gives a virtuosic performance as Ella Fitzgerald. She is positively mesmerizing as she scat-sings to Ms. Fitzgeralds timeless songs. And what songs! The Nearness Of You, They Cant Take That Away From Me,” That Old Black Magic, A-Tisket-A-Tasket That Old Black Magic,” How High The Moon, It Dont Mean A Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing).”
Ms. Fabrique gets able support from Harold Dixon as producer Norman Granz, George Caldwell on piano, Rodney Harper on drums, Clifton Kellum on bass and Elmer Brown who plays a mean trumpet.
Alejo Viettis costumes are exquisite and Michael Schweikardts vibrant set is complemented by John Lasiters lighting.
I highly recommend this show especially to big jazz fans which is playing at Arena Stage in Crystal City till February 24. The performance I attended received a rapturous applause all evening.
Ella directed and co-conceived by Rob Ruggiero, book by Jeffrey Hatcher At Arena Stage, 1800 S. Bell St. Arlington, Va. (near the Crystal City Metro)
Tickets: $55 to $74
Call 202-488-8300 or visit www.arenastage.org
Performance times: Tues., Wed. & Sun. at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays & Fridays & Sat. at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.(Weekday matinee at 12:00 p.m. on February 5)