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
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