Queens Theatre Looks At Legend Of ‘Ella’
BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
Tina Fabrique as Ella.
Queens Theatre has a lot to celebrate as it launches the opening of its exciting 2012-13 Season Sept. 28 with “Ella” – a stylish musical concert acquainting the audience with the life and songs of legendary jazz and pop diva, Ella Fitzgerald.
Starring dynamic songstress Tina Fabrique, who attempts to capture Ella’s true essence, the show showcases a repertoire of more than a dozen of Fitzgerald’s most memorable tunes, as Fabrique sings scat like nobody’s business – performing those great American songbook classics that made “The First Lady of Song” famous. You’ll swear Ella Fitzgerald’s spirit was in the room.
“When I first made the decision to come to Queens Theatre 18 months ago, ‘Ella’ was the show I knew I wanted to bring to this audience and this community,” executive director Ray Cullom said. “After delighting audiences and setting box office records at major theaters around the country, it is high time that this brilliant show, starring the equally brilliant Tina Fabrique, plays New York City.”
Jammin’ with “Louis Armstrong” and her band like Fitzgerald used to, Fabrique will channel her inner Ella, letting loose on iconic hits like, “A Tisket, A Tasket,” “How High the Moon,” “That Old Black Magic” and “They Can’t Take that Away from Me.”
Fabrique’s Ella has toured the U.S. and Europe as a featured singer with The Duke Ellington Orchestra for many years. Chosen by Rob Ruggiero, her director and conceiver of ‘Ella,’ Fabrique came highly recommended by Danny Holgate (her music arranger) because of her experience scatting and singing.
“I was fortunate to do several of her (Fitzgerald’s) songs with them, since I knew her style well. And, Rob liked my acting in a show he saw me in,” she said.
“The one thing Rob wanted to hear me do was the scat to ‘How High the Moon,’ by Ella. I did it, and the rest is history.”
“My singing skills are just a gift from the Almighty, and the rest I learned mostly from performing in New York clubs and working with some of the best jazz musicians around,” said Fabrique, who appeared on Broadway in “Ragtime” and “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” among others. “Then of course, doing theater was the gift that taught me discipline: doing so many shows a week, etc.”
The 60-something performer, who hails from the Bronx, said she likes “the sense of community that Queens has always been known for. It was a place many jazz musicians, like Harold Ousley, Bob Cunningham, Brost Townsend and of course, Louis Armstrong lived at one time.”
Fabrique insists she doesn’t imitate “The Queen of Jazz’s” voice and style: “I don’t really sound like her; I am not an imitation of her, but more of a truthful echo of her vocal quality, her scat comfortability and her phrasing, along with that little girl attitude she was famous for. I work for accuracy in her scats; I learned them note for note – more as an acting exercise, since they were in-the-moment creations that must be sung that way to be effective.” Learning all that in about three weeks, she still listens to Ella to stay connected.
There’s no doubt Fabrique’s scintillating vocals would do Ella proud.
“Much more than a simple revue of Ella Fitzgerald songs (although that would be enough for me!), the show is a wonderful dramatic portrait of the intimate life and creative forces that drove Ella to become the premiere interpreter of the great American songbook, and how and why she developed her unique and inimitable style,” said Cullom.
To purchase tickets, please call the box office at (718) 760-0064. Visit www.queenstheatre.org for more dates and times.