"Ella - the Musical" at Long Wharf Theatre thru October 17
By Tom Nissley
Run - don’t walk - to this fabulous recreation of Ella Fitzgerald in a cameo setting for Tina Fabrique, playing at Long Wharf thru October 17. The show, conceived and directed by Rob Ruggerio, imagines Ella pushing herself and being pushed by her agent, to sing a concert just after the death of her sister, to whom she was deeply attached. The first act has great singing as if in rehearsal - along with lots of history of how Ella began her career appearing at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where Chick Webb found her and took her under his wing. Later she was managed by Norman Granz (Harold Dixon) - the guy who’s pushing her now.
The second act has great singing as if in the concert itself - Ella has resolved her despair, at least enough to go on, and within the concert, she addresses her nephew to put to rest their differences. Fabrique is splendid, outrageous, in her presence and singing, and she’s helped immensely by the performance of Ron Haynes, whose magical trumpet and fanciful take-off of Louis Armstrong add much to the show. (Other musicians are George Caldwell, Rodney Harper, and Cliff Kellam, and together they make a BAND!)
You’ll enjoy and enjoy - “How High the Moon,” “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” “They can’t take that away from me,” “A Tisket, A Tasket,” “That Old Black Magic,” and many, many more. Feet tap, a few tears fall, and this is one wonderful production.
Tickets and information at www.LongWharf.org 203-787-4282 Through October 17
Tom Nissley, for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre