Review by Susan Brink
Photographs by Joe Schuyler
It was an easy and uneventful weekday ride from the North Country to make the 7:30pm curtain for Ella at Capital Repertory in Albany. Zipped into a parking spot on the street, strolled into the theater and into my comfortable seat. I was ready for some entertainment.
I should say that Ella Fitzgerald is part of the soundtrack of my childhood, and I know her story. My mother played her records, my grandparents would see her in concert, and we would watch her on television. I sing her songs while I’m cooking. You could say I’m a fan of her repertoire. So I was a bit concerned – there’s a danger of becoming a caricature when recreating someone of living memory.
No need to worry – Tina Fabrique as Ella had the entire audience spellbound within ten seconds of hitting the stage. She captures Ellas’s essence and tells her story with honesty and clarity. She doesn’t shy from the difficult and painful parts, but deftly wends through them before reaching for the light in song – much as Ella did in life. It’s a nuanced performance, each facet of emotion brought forward like a diamond in the sun.
The music is as stellar as the acting. The band – George Caldwell on piano, Rodney Harper on drums, Ron Haynes on trumpet and Derick Polk on bass – is in the pocket. The music really swings. The stage set is elegant in its simplicity – there’s no need to guild the lily. I was so absorbed in the performance that I lost track of time and was surprised by intermission. This production is perfection, and I urge you to see it before it closes on Sunday (August 12).
The final performances of “Ella” take place at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany at 2 & 7:30pm today; 7:30pm on Thursday; 8pm on Friday; 3 & 8pm on Saturday; and 2pm on Sunday. Tix are $20, $40, $50 & $65 on weekdays; $20, $50, $60 & $75 on weekends.
Bob Goepfert’s review at The Troy Record
Michael Eck’s review at The Times Union
Richard DiMaggio’s review at Did You Weekend?
Excerpt from Carol King’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Tina Fabrique is a dynamic performer — and how! She proves it again and again in the 2-plus hour show, ‘Ella,’ a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, now being presented at Capital Repertory Theatre. From the opening rhythms of ‘How High the Moon’ to the closing notes of ‘Oh, Lady Be Good,’ Fabrique energizes the audience with her powerful voice and authenticity of style. She is a wonder, completely committed to the role… The show soars in the second act when Fabrique pairs with trumpeter Ron Haynes, playing Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong. Their two duets, ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’ work beautifully. Each of the musicians, George Caldwell (piano), Rodney Harper (drums), Derick Polk (bass), have their moments as actors. They are excellent musicians! On the level of a revue, this show succeeds miraculously. Instead of the neon sign above the stage that reads ‘Ella’ I would have preferred a sign that said ‘Tina.’ She and Ella’s songs are really the star of the show.