Elle press release – Long Wharf Theatre

“When I’m not working, I get lost.  I turn off.  I sit and stare off into the dark, and then someone comes in and says: ‘Places, Miss Fitzgerald,’ and everything’s okay again.”

– Ella Fitzgerald, ELLA 

NEW HAVEN – Come meet the lady behind the legend. Long Wharf Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein and Managing Director Ray Cullom, presents Ella, book by Jeffrey Hatcher, conceived by Rob Ruggiero and Dyke Garrison and directed by Ruggiero. Music direction is by George Caldwell and music supervision and arrangements are by Danny Holgate.

The show takes place from September 22 through October 17 on the Mainstage. The press opening is Wednesday, September 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The cast is comprised of Tina Fabrique as Ella, along with George Caldwell (pianist), Harold Dixon (Norman), Rodney Harper (drums), Joilet Harris (Ella cover), Ron Haynes (trumpet), and Cliff Kellam (bass). The creative team is made up of Michael Schweikart (sets), Alejo Vietti (costumes), Charles LaPointe (wigs), John Lasiter (lights) and Michael Miceli (sound).

Featuring more than two-dozen hit songs, Ella combines myth, memory and music into a stylish and sophisticated journey through the life of Ella Fitzgerald, one of the greatest jazz singers of the 20th century.  Tina Fabrique, hailed by Variety as “must-see,” stars in this joy-filled and nostalgic musical, performing such memorable tunes as “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “That Old Black Magic” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” Talkin’ Broadway described the show as “A delightful tribute to a truly memorable singer,” while Variety said “Fabrique shows how it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing – or scat.”

Dubbed “The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century.  In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. She was known for her flexible, wide-ranging voice and for her improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. ELLA takes place in Nice in 1966, just after the death of Ella’s half-sister, Frances.  Fresh off the plane from the funeral, Ella prepares for an important concert, during which she struggles with her producer’s request to share patter—to talk with the audience about her life.

For more information about Ella or to buy tickets, visit the new www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

CREATIVE TEAM BIOS

George Caldwell
Pianist/Musical Director

Mr. Caldwell is a veteran of Broadway, having Black and Blue and Play On!, as well as having served in orchestra pits for Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da FunkThe Full Monty, etc. In addition to providing musical direction for the European tour of Black and Blueand serving as associate conductor for the tour of Body and Soul in Europe, Caldwell has toured regionally, including serving as musical director for the original musicalsThunder Knocking on the DoorGolden Boy at Long Wharf, and productions of Cookin’ at the Cookery. Caldwell also played for three years with the Duke Ellington orchestra, and seven years with the Count Basie orchestra. The Basie Orchestra received a Grammy award with Caldwell at the piano for the recording ‘The Count Basie Orchestra Live at the Manchestra Craftsman’s Guild (with the New York Voices). He has performed with many artists, performers as diverse as George Benson, Savion Glover, Lou Rawls, Elvis Costello, Art Blakey, Shirley Bassey, Freda Payne, Wynton Marsalis, Lionel Hampton, the Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, The Coasters, Cab Calloway, Quincy Jones, Gregory Hines, Dizzy Gillespie and Brenda Lee. Caldwell has played and conducted Ella! since it’s inception in 2005.

Harold Dixon

Norman Granz

Off Broadway:92nd St Y, Theatre Row. Regional:Ella at 15 theatres, including the Guthrie, Pittsburgh Public, Hartford Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Arena Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Arizona Theatre Company. Other shows at: Gloucester Stage (Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady and The Secret of Mme Bonnard’s Bath – world premiere), Phoenix Theatre (Six Degrees of Separation), Arizona Theatre Company (Much Ado About Nothing), Shakespeare Sedona, Arizona Repertory Theatre (King Lear), and Invisible Theatre, Tucson. Film:Hungry For Change, Half Laughing (indie shorts), The Back of Beyond (narrator). Television:“Rescue 911,” “The Highwayman,” “Enola Gay,”plus commercials and industrial films.  Harold is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the School of Theatre, Film, & Television at the University of Arizona. Member of Actors Equity since 1973. http://haroldandmaedell.blogspot.com/

Tina Fabrique

Ella Fitzgerald

BROADWAY: Dessa Rose (Lincoln Center), RagtimeBring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk,Truly BlessedHow to Succeed…, The Gospel at ColonusHarlem Song. NATIONAL TOURS:The WizBubbling Brown SugarThe Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Ann-Margret, Once on This IslandSouth PacificHow to Succeed… OFF-BROADWAY:70, Girls, 70! (City Center Encores!), Angel Levine (Jewish Repertory Theater). REGIONAL:Ella at Hartford TheaterWorks (Original production), Arena Stage (Helen Hayes Nomination), Cincinnati Playhouse (Acclaim Award), Repertory Theater of St. Louis (Kevin Kline Award), Florida Stage (Carbonell Award), Guthrie, Pittsburgh Public, GeVa, Hartford Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Laguna Playhouse, Riverside Theater, and more; Women of Brewster PlaceCrowns, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (all at Arena Stage); Crowns, Constant Star, Spunk (all at Hartford Stage); The Old Settler (Westport Country Playhouse); Glass Menagerie  (Cleveland Playhouse). INTERNATIONAL:Soloist with The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Harlem Gospel Singers. TELEVISION/FILM: “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “When I Grow Up,” “The Today Show,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” “All My Children,” “One Life To Live.” Ms. Fabrique sang the theme songs to “Reading Rainbow” and the documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom.” Her latest CD,Tina Fabrique Sings the Great Composers, is available at www.tribaldisorder.com.

Rodney Harper

Drummer

Mr. Harper comes to Long Wharf Theatre from Chicago, where he began playing jazz and rhythm and blues on the South Side nightclub scene. Those who are hip to the jazz scene will recognize the arts he has accompanied, including tours with Grammy Award winners Billy Eckstein and Della Reese. Mr. Harper has worked with Dakota Staton (of “Late Late Show” album fame), jazz instrumentalist Richard “Groove” Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Hank Crawford, Charles Earl and saxophone giants Sonny Stitt and Frank Foster. Beginning in 2005, he has back the very swinging Marlena Shaw. In the theatre world his credits include Ain’t Misbehavin’ (first national and world tours); Bubbling Brown Sugar(European tour). Rodney has also played the national and European tours of Blackbirds of Broadway and Cookin’ at the Cookery. Finally, his drumming has helped propel the Dells, the Impressions, the Coasters, the Drifters and the Marvellettes in rock and roll revival shows.

Ron Haynes

Trumpet

Ron Haynes began his career as a trumpeter while in his teens, gigging with various blues artists. He studied at Shaw University in N.C., and North Carolina Central University, studying under jazz great Donald Byrd. Ron was the horn section leader for Bernie Mac’s HBO show Midnight Mac with Bernie Mac, later joining the Ohio Players. While playing with Liquid Soul, their cd Here’s the Deal was grammy-nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2001. Ron has also worked with Ramsey Lewis, being featured on Urban Knights IV and The Chicago Project, andin 2005, participated in a world tour as a member of Lenny Kravitz’s band. In 2007, Ron began his acting career in Northlight Theater and Dallas Theater Center’s production of Ella, and has since been involved w/ the production at various other theaters. In 2008, he was the trumpeter and an understudy for Drury Lane’s production of The Buddy Holly Story. Ron has released three solo cd’s (Cool Work, Can You Hear Me and recently released Journeyman.)

Clifton Kellem

Bass

TheatreElla: numerous venues around the country since 2006; Jacques Brel is Alive and Well…, Billie Holiday Story, Dinah Was, Cookin’ at the Cookery. ConcertsPerformed with many Philadelphia jazz artists and at several Atlantic City casinos with George Benson, Diahann Carroll, Buddy Greco, Vic Damone, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark, Suzanne Somers, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle and many others; South American tours with Billy Paul and fusion group Musiqology. RecordingsInclude a great variety with more than 15 artists. TeachingWest Catholic High School, Philadelphia; private lessons to Cheyney University students. EducationTemple University, studied bass with Philadelphia Orchestra bassists Ed Arien and Henry Scott.

Rob Ruggiero

Director/Co-Conceiver

Mr. Ruggiero conceived and first directed Ella in 2005 at TheaterWorks, Hartford and since then has played numerous other regional theaters around the country winning 3 Joseph Jefferson Awards in Chicago and 3 Kevin Kline Awards in St. Louis. Last summer Mr. Ruggiero directed Valerie Harper in the highly successful world premiere of Matthew Lombardo’s new play, Looped at the Pasadena Playhouse and subsequent productions in Florida and Arena Stage in Washington, DC. That was Mr. Ruggiero’s second collaboration with Ms. Harper having directed her Off-Broadway in All Under Heaven which toured regionally and had a critically acclaimed run in Los Angeles.  Mr. Ruggiero has been a key partner in the artistic leadership of TheaterWorks in Hartford, where he conceived and directed an original musical revue entitled Make Me A Song: The Music of William Finn. The show had successful runs both Off-Broadway and in London and received nominations for both the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. It was released on CD in 2008. Mr. Ruggiero’s work on both plays and musicals has been seen at many regional theaters around the country. He directed highly successful revivals of 1776 and Big River for Goodspeed Musicals, which won him his third and fourth Connecticut Circle Critics Award for “Best Director of a Musical.”  This last summer, Mr. Ruggiero returned to Goodspeed Musicals with a revival of Camelot. Mr. Ruggiero is the only person to have been honored with 4 Kevin Kline Awards for “Best Direction”. An online portfolio of his work can be viewed at www.robruggiero.com.

Jeffrey Hatcher

Book

Broadway:  Never Gonna Dance (book). Off-Broadway: Three Viewings and A Picassoat Manhattan Theatre Club; Scotland Road and The Turn of the Screw at Primary Stages; Tuesdays with Morrie (with Mitch Albom) at The Minetta Lane; Murder by Poeand The Turn of the Screw at The Acting Company; Neddy at American Place; andFellow Travelers at Manhattan Punchline. Other Plays/Theaters: Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Mrs. Mannerly, Murderers, Mercy of a Storm, Smash, Armadale, Korczak’s Children, To Fool the Eye, The Falls, A Piece of the Rope, All the Way with LBJ, The Government Inspector, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and others at The Guthrie, Old Globe, Yale Rep, The Geffen, Seattle Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Arizona Theater Company, San Jose Rep, The Empty Space, Indiana Rep, Children’s Theater Company, History Theater, Madison Rep, Intiman, Illusion,  Denver Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival,  Milwaukee Rep, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Actors Theater of Louisville, Philadelphia Theater Company, Asolo, City Theater, Studio Arena and dozens more in the U.S. and abroad.  Film/ TV:  Stage Beauty, Casanova, The Duchess, and episodes of “Columbo.”  Grants/Awards:  NEA, TCG, Lila Wallace Fund, Rosenthal New Play Prize, Frankel Award, Charles MacArthur Fellowship Award, McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Barrymore Award Best New Play.  He is a member and/or alumnus of The Playwrights Center, the Dramatists Guild, the Writers Guild, and New Dramatists. 

Dyke Garrison

Co-Conceiver

Mr. Garrison wrote his first produced play, They Also Serve, as a Shubert Playwright Fellow at Occidental College. He has had performances of his short works at One Act Theatre, the Marsh, and Guild Theatre. His full-length works include: Meadow in the Sky, The Finish Line, Shall We Dance, Dead Languages, What’s On Tonight?, All Present (a one-man show for Ken Dixon), and All Under Heaven, a one-woman show written for and with Valerie Harper. Professional affiliations: member of the Playwrights Lab of San Francisco; former president of the board of directors of Playwrights Foundation. Training: Occidental College; studied playwriting with Sam Shepherd and Oskar Eustis.

Danny Holgate

Musical Supervision and Arrangements

Mr. Holgate has worked on Broadway as musical director/supervisor and arranger forDon’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Eubie, Guys and Dolls, andRainbow Jones. He was also the dance arranger for Odyssey, starring Yul Brenner. New York credits include musical supervisor/arranger and performer for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (with Lonnette McKee), which he also toured with Gail Nelson. Pre-Broadway shows: Daddy Goodnes; Two Faces of Africa; Golden Boy; Stringbean (with Leslie Uggams); Sweet and Hot (an evening of Harold Arlen); Aretha, Queen of Soul; Blackbirds of Broadway; and Cookin’ at the Cookery. He has arranged for performers such as Carol Channing, Alexis Smith, Lena Horne and Cab Calloway.

Michael Schweikardt

Set Designer

Mr. Schweikardt designed the set for Ella, which has been seen at theatres all across the country. He has also designed sets for several musicals by Joe Iconis: ReWrite, A Musical Comedy Triple Feature at Urban Stages; The Black Suits at the Public Theatre; The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks for Theatreworks U.S.A. at the Lucille Lortell Theatre; and Things to Ruin at both the Zipper Factory and Second Stage. Recent credits include the critically acclaimed productions of 1776, Big River, and Camelot for Goodspeed Musicals;Barnum for Asolo Rep’s 50th anniversary season; Oklahoma!, starring Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase, to celebrate the Oklahoma state centennial; the American premieres of Frank McGuinness’ Gates of Gold and The Bird Sanctuary; and the national and international tours of James Taylor’s One Man Band. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of the Duncan Sheik/Kyle Jarrow musical Whisperhouse, opening at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in January 2010. Online portfolio: www.msportfolio.com 

Alejo Vietti

Costume Designer

With Rob Ruggiero: Make Me a Song (TheaterWorks and New York productions); Big River; 1776; Sweet Charity; New York: Rooms; Grace, starring Lynn Redgrave; Tryst; Roulette, starring Anna Paquin; The Last Sunday in June; 16 Wounded; 2 X Tennessee; The Wau Wau Sisters; Servicemen, directed by Sean Mathias; Five Flights; Love’s Labour’s Lost; Measure for Measure; and Of a White Christmas among others. Regional: Alley Theatre Houston (Over 10 productions, including  A Christmas Carol, Cyrano de Bergerac, Eurydice and Bad Dates), Arena Stage, Arizona Theatre Company, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Barrington Stage Company, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Colorado Ballet, Columbia University, Florida Stage, Ford’s Theatre, Goodspeed Opera, Guthrie Theater, Hangar Theatre, Hartford Stage, Longwharf Theatre, Metrostage, New York Stage and Film, Northlight Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Rockland Opera, San Diego Repertory Theater, Saint Louis Repertory Theatre, Signature Theatre Washington, TheatreWorks, Westport Country Playhouse, Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Donetsk Opera in the Ukraine and Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Gold Unit 2008-/09.

John Lasiter

Lighting Designer

Mr. Lasiter has designed lights Off-Broadway for Make Me A Song: The Music of William Finn, Alarm Dog Repertory Company, Blue Light Theater Company, Music Theater Group. Regional: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Arizona Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Centerstage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Florida Stage, George Street Playhouse, Geva Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, Gutherie Theater, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, New Mexico Repertory Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theater, South Coast Repertory, Syracuse Stage, Virginia Stage Company, and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Opera: Eos Orchestra, the Curtis Institute of Music, Glimmerglass Opera, Manhattan School of Music, Opera Delaware, Opera Carolina and Skyline Opera Theatre. Dance: Ballet Memphis, Danzantes LA, Danzantes New Meixico, Irene Hultman Dance, Nora Reynolds Dance and Randy James Dance Works. For more information, visit www.johnlasiter.com.

Michael Miceli

Sound Designer

Mr. Miceli has designed the sound for Ella, which has been heard at numerous venues around the country since its 2005 premiere at Hartford’s TheatreWorks. Other credits: Hartford Stage Company: Resurrection, Mahalia: A Gospel Musical; The Devil’s Music; Crowns; Ain’t Misbehavin’; and Floyd & Clea Under the Western Sky. Philadelphia Theatre Company: Resurrection. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Cincinnati Playhouse:Emma. ArtFarm: The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, and Macbeth. Ridge Theater:Jennie Richee (audio consultant). Film: Amhenol: Connecting Through Time (co-producer, director of photography). Other: Audio supervisor, Hartford Stage Company. He is the founder of Miceli Productions, LLC, specializing in HD video for theatre/corporate clients and sound and audio systems designs.  

Charles LaPoint

Wig Designer

Mr. LaPointe has worked with Broadway productions of Radio Golf, Memphis, Desire Under the Elms, 33 Variations, Guys and Dolls, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cymbeline, Xanadu, The Apple Tree, High Fidelity, Martin Short’s Fame Becomes MeThe Color Purple, Jersey Boys, Julius Caesar, Good Vibrations, The Rivals, Sight Unseen, A Raisin in the Sun, Henry IV, and Wicked (associate hair designer). London’s West End: Jersey Boys(also in Las Vegas and Chicago). Off-Broadway: The Tin Pan Alley Rag, Offices, The Long Christmas Ride Home, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, In the Heights, Some Men, All’s Well That Ends Well, The Jew of Malta, and The Merchant of Venice.

FAST FACTS

Ella

  • Sept. 22-Oct. 17, 2010
  • Mainstage
  • Tickets: $35-$65
  • Performance Schedule: Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Wednesdays, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at   2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Box office phone number: 203-787-4282
  • Website: www.longwharf.thinkcreativegroup.com