Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., Fri., March 4, 8 p.m., Sat., March 5, 2 & 8 p.m. and Sun., March 6, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through March 3 2011
Little-known fact: In 2004, veteran singer/actress Tina Fabrique played a lesser role to Freda Payne’s titular portrayal in Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song, an original, little-remembered biographical musical that underwhelmed New York critics. Possibly lessons were learned from that failed effort, because by 2005 a new bio-play called Ella had been conceived by Rob Ruggiero and Dyke Garrison, with a book by veteran playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, and with Fabrique tapped for the lead. The show’s been touring around successfully ever since, and Fabrique, backed by a swinging four-piece combo, tackles about two-dozen tunes from Fitzgerald’s Great American Songbook repertoire — “How High the Moon,” “That Old Black Magic,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” her signature “A Tisket, a Tasket,” etc. — as well as enacts key scenes from the great singer’s sometimes difficult life. (Everyone knows of Billie Holiday’s tough upbringing, but the vastly respected yet self-effacing Ella’s early life was no picnic either, and steadfast romantic love eluded her till her death from diabetes in 1996.) Fabrique is a pro, but taking on Ella — with her extraordinary vocal range, unequaled mastery of scat-singing and unassailable position as beloved American artistic icon — is no small challenge. (Heck, Ella even made it onto a postage stamp.) If you close your eyes … you’ll know it’s not Ella. But Fabrique certainly projects the artist’s spirit — and life, legend, memory and the music collide here in satisfying unity. Harold Dixon portrays Fitzgerald’s manager, Norman Granz.