Picks: It's flower power, baby

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July 20, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes and Michelle Bruch
Cristof Traudes and Michelle Bruch
If you’re not sure what turtles, a couple of guys named Flo and Eddie and a bad finger have to do with each other, you’re not exactly the target audience here — well, unless you’re a fan of songs such as “Band on the Run,” “Day After Day” and “Happy Together” or wish you’d grown up during the Summer of Love. (If you did grow up in 1967, good for you. This show’s yours.)

Hippiefest brings back all the (legal) highlights of the good times, featuring performances by Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Badfinger, and Denny Laine of the Moody Blues, a veteran of post-Beatles Paul McCartney’s Wings. They’re no Lady Gaga, but be glad for that.

Bring on the flower power.

7:30 p.m., July 28
State Theatre


Becoming Ella

The original voice of the “Reading Rainbow” theme song is coming to the Guthrie Theater this month to play another familiar voice — that of Ella Fitzgerald. Tina Fabrique stars in “Ella,” a production that tells the true story of how Fitzgerald performed a concert in France the same day she buried her half-sister. Fabrique’s acting credits include everything from Law & Order episodes to Broadway shows, and she even sang background vocals for a Michael Jackson performance at the Grammys (she sang “Man in the Mirror” with a choir of New York singers).

When the creators of “Ella” heard Fabrique sing scat, they decided she could skip the rest of the audition. We asked Fabrique how she learned to sing like The First Lady of Song:

You’ve done extensive research on Fitzgerald’s life. What surprised you about her?

Most people pick up that she’s shy. In concert, she didn’t do a lot of talking, and she was always girlish in her performance of the material. People thought of her as a jovial, sweet lady that always had things easy in her life. But it was totally the opposite. She had a very difficult childhood. Her mother died when she was 14, and she had an abusive stepfather. She lived as a homeless girl in Harlem for a while after her mother passed. She started out as a dancer, rather than a singer.

You’ve seen Fitzgerald perform in concert.

I was born and raised in Harlem, so I’d seen her at the Apollo once and another place my mother took me to when I was about 14. I was amazed at how effortless she seemed to be able to sing. I do 24 of her songs in this production, and I think the most challenging thing is to be able to sing each song, doing all the skillful things that she did, like you’re hearing it for the first time. She made it sound like it was just rippling, and it’s hard work to sing like that.

How did you learn to match Ella’s voice?

Ella was a soprano. Even if you sing in the same key, if your tone is darker, it’s going to sound different. I did exercises to lighten my tone to sound closer to that soprano quality.

Has your performance evolved after working in “Ella” for three years?
It’s almost like doing comedy; you leave a certain amount of time for laughter depending on the audience. ... You don’t get a chance to sit on your laurels, which I think would be very boring anyway.

July 21–Sept. 6
Guthrie Theater