Now showcasing at the York Theatre Company’s 2017 summer New2NY Series is the new musical Me & Ella. Written and performed by Andrea Frierson (Once on This Island, The Lion King). This cabaret/ solo show follows Ms. Frierson’s life through songs and personal accounts, that connect her life to the late great singer Ella Fitzgerald. Always a fan, Ms. Frierson’s show gives us a glimpse into how great performers can have strong influences and shape our lives.
Originally born into a operatic house a young Andrea yearns to sing jazz. As Ms Frierson grows up we see Ella’s rise to fame, starting with her 1960’s television show. Ms. Fierson does not imitate nor does she have the emotional impact of Ella, instead she gives insightful information about Ella’s historical career. We enter the 50s, 60s, 70s and the politics and social injustices. We see her troubled marriages which inevitably leads to divorce, the racism of the time and her amazing song catalogue. The past comes back with “I thought About You,” “The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea,” “Drop Me Off In Harlem,” I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “A Tisket, A Tasket,” “Goody Goody,” “Old Man River,” “Laura,” “Get Out of Town,” Close To You,” “Gotta Get You Into My Life” and more. It is a time capsule juke box of the era’s greatest songs.
What keeps this show together is the jazz trio, led by the incomparable Ron Abel. His arrangement’s really shine on the mash-up of “I’m Old Fashioned/ Lucky to Be Me,” “It Might As Well Be Spring,” and the fabulous Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flarherty’s “The Human Heart.”
The direction by Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel, seemed a little at odds, as the show is not seamless.
If you sink into to the rich arrangements and the stylings of Ms. Frierson, it is sure to be an evening filled with musical highlights.
Me & Ella: York Theatre Company, 619 Lexington Ave, until July 23rd.