ELLA: An American Miracle - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Thursday, August 25, 2022

ELLA: An American Miracle


ELLA: An American Miracle

New Theatrical Production

Featuring The Music of Ella Fitzgerald

Will Hold Work Session & Private Industry Presentation

Starring Dee Dee Bridgewater

and Charity Angél Dawson


ELLA: An American Miracle, a new musical written by Anna Deavere Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 and Notes From The Field) and featuring music from the Ella Fitzgerald songbook, is currently in development, with an upcoming work session held from August 25-September 21 to conclude with a private industry presentation.


ELLA: An American Miracle is produced by Steve J. Scarduzio and John Hart.


ELLA features two women who portray the extraordinary Ella Fitzgerald at different points in her life. Three-time Grammy Award-winning jazz singer, Tony Award winner, and Olivier Award nominee Dee Dee Bridgewater (The WizLady Day) will return to the theater for the first time in more than 30 years to portray the ghost of Ella. Among Bridgewater’s numerous accolades, her 1997 album Dear Ella won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Charity Angél Dawson (ChicagoWaitress) will portray Young Ella.


Anna Deavere Smith said, “Composers wanted Ella Fitzgerald to sing their songs because listening to her, they knew how their songs were supposed to be sung. A jazz singer, a scat singer, she also famously both sang and defined the American song book. To say she had humble beginnings is a profound understatement. She sang America through some of its most discordant times. She was America’s love song. She was an American miracle.”


In addition to Bridgewater and Dawson, the cast for the workshop will feature Saint AubynAngela BirchettJ. Bernard CallowayMilanis ClarkCrystal JoyKen Marks, Jhardon Dishon MiltonJoshua MorganRance NixOkwui OkpokwasiliNick RehbergerJessica RushDeandre Sevon, and Erica Sweany.


ELLA: An American Miracle is directed by Philip Wm. McKinley (The Boy From Oz) and choreographed by Ellenore Scott (Funny GirlMr. Saturday Night), with musical direction by acclaimed jazz composer, pianist, music director, vocalist, and jazz instructor Mark G. Meadows. The stage production will feature costume design by Tony Award winner Ann Hould-Ward (Into The WoodsThe Color Purple). ShowTown Theatricals serves as General Manager.


ELLA FITZGERALD. Born in Newport News, VA on April 25th, 1917, Ella Fitzgerald was the child of William Fitzgerald and Temperance “Tempie” Henry. After her parents parted ways, Ella went with her mother to Yonkers, NY, where they eventually moved in with her mother’s longtime partner, Joseph Da Silva. Following the death of her mother and stepfather, Ella faced difficulties in her home life, and was sent away to a reform school where she faced abuse at the hands of her caretakers. In 1934, Ella received the opportunity to compete in Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre in New York. This is where Ella Fitzgerald found her home under the spotlight. In 1935, Ella met her mentor, bandleader Chick Webb. The two would continue to work together as Ella’s career continued to propel forward. In 1939, following the death of Chick Webb, Ella assumed leadership of the band, which was renamed “Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Band.” Her career would go on to span over 60 years with genres ranging from bee-bop to swing to scat, an artform Fitzgerald perfected and popularized. Ella became a frequent and favorite guest on television variety shows such as “The Bing Crosby Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “The Frank Sinatra Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Nat King Cole Show,” “The Andy Williams Show,” and “The Dean Martin Show.” Ella also had celebrity fans, including her relationship with Marilyn Monroe, which led to her famously performing at the Mocambo, a popular nightclub in the 1950s. In her lifetime, she recorded over 200 albums, selling over 40 million, and was awarded 13 Grammys and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, along with several prestigious awards such as the Kennedy Center Honors, National Medal of Arts, and Commander of Arts and Letters award from France. Fitzgerald was awarded Honorary doctorates from Dartmouth, Yale, and Harvard University as well as a Magnum Opus Award from the University of Southern California. Since Ella’s death in 1996, her music continues to be in demand and was downloaded 1.9 billion times in 2021.


DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER. Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning Jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. The three-time Grammy winner most recently won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee.” Bridgewater’s career has always bridged musical genres. She earned her first professional experience as a member of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, and throughout the 70s she performed with such jazz notables as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and Dizzy Gillespie. After a foray into the pop world during the 1980s, she relocated to Paris and began to turn her attention back to Jazz. Bridgewater began self-producing with her 1993 album “Keeping Tradition” (Polydor/Verve) and created DDB Records in 2006 when she signed with the Universal Music Group as a producer (Bridgewater produces all of her own CDs). Releasing a series of critically acclaimed CD's, all but one, including her wildly successful double Grammy Award-winning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, “Dear Ella,” have received Grammy nominations. Bridgewater also pursued a parallel career in musical theater, winning a Tony Award for her role as Glinda in The Wiz in 1975. Having recently completed a run as the lead role of Billie Holiday in the off-Broadway production of Lady Day, her other theatrical credits include Sophisticated LadiesBlack BalladCarmenCabaret and the Off-Broadway and West End Productions of Lady Day, for which Bridgewater received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. As a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bridgewater continues to appeal for international solidarity to finance global grassroots projects in the fight against world hunger. In April 2017 she was the recipient of an NEA Jazz Masters Fellows Award with honors bestowed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In December 2017, Bridgewater was presented with the ASCAP Foundation Champions award acknowledging her charitable contributions. 2019 brought her induction in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in recognition of her contributions to music and in celebration of her latest CD, "Memphis, Yes...I'm Ready."


CHARITY ANGÉL DAWSON. Born in Tulsa Oklahoma, Charity Angél Dawson found her love for music during her adolescence, when she began singing with her mother and siblings in church. It was after relocating to Detroit, where Charity attended the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, that her passion for storytelling was sparked. That passion ultimately brought her to New York where she was trained at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Charity currently plays Mama Morton in the hit Broadway show Chicago. Other Broadway credits include Mrs. Doutbfire (Walnda Sellner), Waitress (Becky) and made her Broadway debut in the 2014 revival of Side Show as the Fortune Teller. Other favorite credits include the Off-Broadway hit Distaster!Kiss Me KateDreamgirlsThe Color PurpleThe WizAidaSmokey Joe’s CafeAin’t Misbehavin’, and West Side Story.


ANNA DEAVERE SMITH (Book), playwright and actress, is credited with having created a new form of theater. Original plays and films include Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles, Let Me Down Easy, and Notes from the Field. Work as an actress on television and in movies includes “Inventing Anna,” “The West Wing,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Black-ish,” Philadelphia, The American President and Rachel Getting Married. Awards include The National Endowment for the Humanities Medal, the MacArthur Fellowship, the George Polk Career Award in Journalism and the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Dean’s Medal, runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize and two Tony nominations. Her several honorary doctorates include those from Harvard, Yale, Spelman, Juilliard and Oxford. She was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame last fall.


PHILIP WM. MCKINLEY (Director) has directed record-breaking productions from Broadway to Salzburg to Tokyo. Among his NYC productions are: Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark with music by Bono and The Edge; the five-time Tony nominated Broadway musical The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman; the revival of The Most Happy Fella starring Paul Sorvino at the New York City Opera; the Drama Desk-nominated comedy Thwak; and the cult Off-Broadway musical Zombie Prom. His international projects include: West Side Story at the Salzburg Music Festival starring Cecilia Bartoli with conductor Gustavo Dudamel; Mozart l’opera rock in Tokyo which broke Tokyo’s box office records; Ben Hur Live, at the 02 Dome in London; and That Woman - Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He is presently developing the verbal-sparring dramedy The Guest with Gregg Hurwitz. Later this season, he will direct the West End production of the musical Elf.


ELLENORE SCOTT (Choreographer) (she/her) is a choreographer, performer and creative director. Scott choreographed the Broadway revival of Funny Girl and Mr. Saturday Night and the Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. She also served as the associate choreographer for Head Over Heels and King Kong on Broadway, and she was the assistant choreographer for the Broadway revivals of Cats and Falsettos. She choreographed Kate Hamill's Off-Broadway’s production of Pride and Prejudice and Jeremy O. Harris' Black Exhibition. She is the Artistic Director of ELSCO Dance, a New York contemporary dance company. During the pandemic, Scott choreographed the first ever TikTok Musical called Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical directed by Lucy Moss, which raised over $2 million dollars for The Actors Fund. As a performer she was a finalist and an All-Star on the hit television show “So You Think You Can Dance.” She performed on numerous television shows (“Glee,” “Smash,” “The Ellen Show,” “The Blacklist,” “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to name a few) and danced with Janet Jackson. Scott is also a content creator, with over 1 million followers on TikTok under the name @EllenoreShoto.


MARK G. MEADOWS (Musical Director). Acclaimed jazz pianist, music director, & composer/arranger, Mark G. Meadows is a man on a mission: to create a unifying sound that harmonizes different walks of life. Ever since his award-winning turn as lead role ‘Jelly’ in Signature Theater's electrifying production of Jelly's Last Jam, venues everywhere, including the Kennedy Center and Jazz at the Lincoln Center, have sought him for his ability to combine the raw, spontaneous nature of jazz with the story-telling component of live theatre. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including DC Jazz Artist of the Year in 2020 and a Henry Award for Outstanding Music Direction in 2022. He has performed alongside world-renowned artists including Cynthia Erivo, Usher, Renee Fleming, Bobby McFerrin, DeeDee Bridgewater, and many more. Mark’s work exudes his joy and fosters a sense of freedom among his collaborators. Website / socials: @markgmeadows


ANN HOULD-WARD (Costume Design) has won, or been nominated for, virtually every major theatre award in existence, including the Tony, Drama Desk, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, American Theatre Wing, Outer Critics Circle, and Olivier Awards for her costume design. A Tony winner for Beauty and the Beast and Tony nominee for Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George, Ms. Hould-Ward’s stage credits also include countless Off-Broadway productions and designs for the most highly regarded regional theatres and the theatre world’s finest producers and directors. International audiences applaud her work as well, as do audiences for film, television, concerts, dance and opera. Ms. Hould-Ward is the recipient of the inaugural Patricia Zipprodt Award for Innovative Costume Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and she is a seasoned lecturer on costume design.


SHOWTOWN THEATRICALS (General Management). Broadway/Tour: Into The Woods, A Christmas CarolIn Residence on Broadway, The Jimmy Awards, Notre Dame de Paris (Lincoln Center), Mystery Science Theatre 3000, May We All. Regional: Bruce: The Musical, Anne of Green Gables, American Prophet, Grace: The Musical, How to Dance in Ohio.  OB: A Sherlock Carol. Upcoming: Romy & Michele, Room, shAme, Syncing Ink, Ella, and When Playwrights Kill.  showtown.nyc.


JOHN N. HART (Producer) has over 40 years of experience working in theatre, film, and the intersection of the two. Hart has produced over 20 films and more than 15 Broadway productions. His most recent theatre credits include The Band’s VisitThe Sound InsideOnce and The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones. His films have received 7 Academy Award nominations, 10 Golden Globe nominations, and 16 Independent Spirit Award nominations. His Broadway productions have been nominated for 74 Tony Awards®, won over 35 Tony Awards®, and garnered 6 Tonys for best production as well as multiple Drama Desk, Drama League, Obie, Lucille Lortel, and Outer Critics Circle awards.


STEVE J. SCARDUZIO (Producer). For nearly 40 years, Scarduzio owned and operated some of the largest concert halls and nightclub venues in Los Angeles, including The Palace in Hollywood. He also promoted hundreds of national acts in a partnership with Avalon Attractions, which was later absorbed by Live Nation, and until 2017 was a Studio Executive for Morgan Creek Productions at Warner Brothers Studios. Scarduzio is currently the President and Chairman of Intellectual-Philanthropy.org, a non-profit immersive incubator for writers and directors, and serves as Executive Producer of Social Media Live (SML), a weekly variety show focused on talent from the internet including musical guests, dancers and sketch comedy. In addition to Ella: An American Miracle, he has several other shows in development. He currently resides in Beverly Hills and New York City.


No comments:

Post a Comment