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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fabrique fine in "Ella"

HARTFORD - Fabulous, fun, phenomenal, fantastic, and fascinating, Tina Fabrique reincarnates jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald in the Hartford Stage Company’s production of "Ella."
Produced in collaboration with the Connecticut Theatre Festival, this jazz concert wrapped in a mini-biographical documentary of Fitzgerald’s life, is all Ella, all the time.
For over two hours Fabrique sang and sang and sang some more. Where mere mortals would have faded, Fabrique only improved as the night progressed.
By the end of the show the full house practically leapt to its collective feet in spontaneous applause. One woman in the front row genuflected to Fabrique in a display of awe and admiration no one disagreed with.
The sleek single set, designed by Michael Schweikardt, had three sensational circular arches accented with delicate vertical beads.
It was a theater in 1966 Nice, France, but it could have been any curvilinear Art Deco stage from the 1940’s, right out of a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film.
Each song, and there were many, such as "They Can’t Take that Away from Me," "Heaven," "Night and Day," and "A Tisket a Tasket," (a child’s nursery rhyme Fitzgerald set to music), was accompanied by a terrific jazz combo, with the four musicians doubling as the various men in her life when needed.
Notable in the band was trumpet-player Thaddeus Wilson who gave a ripping imitation of Louis Armstrong and sang with Fabrique.
Looking at one set, as lovely as it was, for over two hours risks monotony, but the playful, rainbow-hued, ever-changing lighting by John Lasiter kept the eye entertained, while the ear feasted on Fabrique’s Ella.

Three Stars
Theater: Hartford Stage Company
Location: 50 Church Street, Hartford
Production: Directed by Rob Ruggiero. Book by Jeffrey Hatcher. Conceived by Rob Ruggiero and Dyke Garrison. Music directed and arranged by Danny Holgate. Set designed by Michael Schweikardt. Costume designed by Alejo Vietti. Lighting designed by John Lasiter. Sound designed by Michael Miceli.
Running time: 2 ½ hours, with one intermission
Show Times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday performances at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m., with matinee performances Sunday and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. through July 27.
Tickets: $28 to $55. For further information call their box office at 860-527-5151, or visit their Wwebsite a

Tina Fabrique ... Ella Fitzgerald
Harold Dixon ... Norman Granz
George Caldwell ... Piano/Conductor
Rodney Harper ... Drums
Clifton Kellem ... Bass
Thaddeus Wilson ... Trumpet