The Rep Celebrates Ella Fitzgerald
Musical bio ‘The First Lady of Song’ features Alexis Roston singing Fitzgerald’s songs.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has scheduled a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, The First Lady of Song, performed by Alexis Roston. Ella Fitzgerald had a long acclaimed career, from her first appearance in a talent contest in 1934 until her last in 1991 at her 26th performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She became an international singing star who filled clubs and theaters all over the world.
The path to stardom was not without challenges. After the tragic early death of her mother and then her stepfather, Fitzgerald not only got in trouble with the law but ended up at a reformatory school for girls. On her own, she began her career singing in talent contests. Musicians recognized her talent and shepherded her into the business. Bridging the swing era into bebop, she developed her skill by imitating other instruments with her voice and popularized scat singing.
Despite her star status, Fitzgerald suffered the discrimination of era’s prejudice against Blacks. She was sheltered somewhat by her manager Norman Granz who wouldn’t allow his Black entertainers to be discriminated against. It was apparent that some venues wouldn’t book a Black entertainer regardless of their talent or fame.
Ella also got some help from another superstar. The manager of the Mocambo night club in Los Angeles got a call from a famous movie actress. Marilyn Monroe told him if he would book Ella Fitzgerald, she would be at a front table for every night’s performance. Ella credited that for her ability to book the larger venues for the rest of her career.
While she maintained a breakneck schedule of appearances, Ella made a lot of money, and she gave it back, supporting programs that served troubled children. In 1974 President Ronald Reagan awarded her The National Medal of Arts. Her international was recognized by France when she received their title of Commander of Arts and Letters. Not to mention honorary degrees from Yale, Dartmouth, and other universities.
The First Lady of Song will be performed at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater from April 27th – May 23rd. Roston will be returning to The Rep. On her previous visit; she appeared as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emersons Bar & Grill. For this show, she won the Chicago’s Jeff Award and Black Theater Alliance Award. Also, Roston was fabulous in her 2014 appearance in The Color Purple.
This is an in-person performance for a limited audience (25% of capacity). The Milwaukee City health officials have approved the safety plans. Those safety measures require patrons to wear masks at all times
Tickets are on sale at www.MilwaukeeRep.com