A new musical about jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald is in the works from Anna Deavere Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Notes From the Field). Titled ELLA: An American Miracle, the work will portray Fitzgerald at different points in her life, drawing from her own songbook for the score. The musical is holding a work session August 25-September 21, which will culminate in a private industry presentation.
Starring in the work session are Tony winner and three-time Grammy winner Dee Dee Bridgewater (The Wiz, Lady Day) as the ghost of Ella and Charity Angél Dawson (Chicago, Waitress) as Young Ella, along with Saint Aubyn, Angela Birchett, J. Bernard Calloway, Milanis Clark, Crystal Joy, Ken Marks, Jhardon Dishon Milton, Joshua Morgan, Rance Nix, Okwui Okpokwasili, Nick Rehberger, Jessica Rush, Deandre Sevon, and Erica Sweany.
"Composers wanted Ella Fitzgerald to sing their songs because listening to her, they knew how their songs were supposed to be sung," says Smith in a statement. "A jazz singer, a scat singer, she also famously both sang and defined the American songbook. 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."
The project is directed by Philip Wm. McKinley (The Boy From Oz) and choreographed by Ellenore Scott (Funny Girl, Mr. Saturday Night). Jazz musician Mark G. Meadows is music directing, with costumes set to be designed by Ann Hould-Ward. ShowTown Theatricals serves as general manager, with Steve J. Scarduzio and John Hart producing.