We've just returned from The Rep's production of "Ella," starring Tina Fabrique as Ella Fitzgerald.
From the moment the spotlight first hit her, I gasped at how much Fabrique looks like Fitzgerald -- but when she opened her mouth and sang, I was even more stunned. She has the act down, right to the scat-singing that made Ella so famous.
The show takes place on the day of a Fitzgerald concert in Nice, France, with the first act setting up some of her personal history, and the second act a re-creation of that night's show. The performance came at a time of crisis in Fitzgerald's life, just days after her beloved sister Francis had died, and that thread weaves its way through the show's thin storyline.
She also discusses how Ella's looks kept her from getting some early gigs and later roles in movies. I couldn't help but wonder whether, despite her amazing voice, someone who looks like her -- heavyset and wearing glasses -- could become a star today, or even pass an "American Idol" audition.
How did Ella do it? Simply by singing like no one else, and in the show, Fabrique's vocals are the real star, too. She and the four-piece band, whose members double as some of the other men in Ella's life, absolutely swing throughout the show, right up to the mandatory standing ovation at the finale.
Fabrique has been touring in this show across the country, and if it comes near you, I'd recommend it. It's not Ella live, nor is it Memorex, but it's the next best thing.
Wanna see Fabrique in action as The First Lady of Song? Click here.
And here's Ella in action herself, in 1983 at age 66, doing Cole Porter...