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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

‘Ella’ comes to life in Long Wharf’s musical opener - The Middletown Press : Serving Middletown, CT

Ella Fitzgerald in 1968Image via Wikipedia‘Ella’ comes to life in Long Wharf’s musical opener - The Middletown Press : Serving Middletown, CT
NEW HAVEN — When Tina Fabrique takes to the stage to play the jazz great Ella Fitzgerald, she re-creates Ella’s famous scat singing as though she’s singing sacred music.
Because those seemingly casual trills and dips and improvisational “beepity bops” were Ella’s trademark, Fabrique has learned them note for note — and when she delivers them to the breathless audience, it’s as though she’s channeling America’s “first lady of song” herself.
Fabrique has been touring the country for the last five years starring in the Rob Ruggiero-directed “Ella The Musical,” an upbeat, joyful extravaganza, written by Jeffrey Hatcher, that opens the Long Wharf Theatre season Wednesday and runs through Oct. 17. It features more than two dozen of Ella’s hit songs, while exploring the legend surrounding one of the greatest jazz singers of the 20th century. George Caldwell is the musical director and pianist.
For Fabrique, the chance to play Ella Fitzgerald was a perfect fit. Already a jazz singer in her own right, Fabrique had sung as a soloist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and had appeared in several Broadway productions, including “Ragtime,” and “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk,” and had done regional theater as well as several national tours.
When she auditioned for the part of Ella, she was considered by all who knew her to be perfect for the part. Not only did she look a bit like Ella (they share a similar facial structure), but she also knew plenty about the singer’s style.
“I was already a natural jazz singer, but my sound was more like Sarah Vaughan,” she says. “Although both women were like horns, Sarah was more like a saxophone and Ella was more like a trumpet,” she says. “A trumpet does quick, high notes and the sax does more slurred, meaty middle-voice notes. What I had to do was to connect the two and meet in the middle and become a reflection of Ella’s spirit, not an imitation of her.”
When she got the part, she says, she felt it was important to approach it as an actress rather than just as a singer. “The singing went without saying,” she says, “but I wanted to find the true person underneath. People started sending me packages of CDs and tapes of her. I watched everything I could find, about her talking about her career and about her life, and I built on that.”

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