What an exciting evening…finally getting back into a theater…for a live performance. Not quite what I would normally expect in the Quadracci Power House Theater. This would be perfectly suited to the Stackner Cabaret, but given the City of Milwaukee Health Department safety regulations around capacity and social distancing…this was a genius solution!
And Alexis J. Roston is just the perfect actor/vocalist to bring us Ella Fitzgerald on stage. She just owns every one of the standards that Ella brought to the American public. Man…what a voice…and what a sense of style…and skat singing! The room was just electric…and you could feel the wave of recognition and satisfaction move across the room when she started in to Summertime! So just expect to sit back and smile as you hear and remember classics from Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. I don’t think anyone can leave the theater unhappy.
Ok, I am at a loss here and just a little bit sad. I have been over the Rep’s website and read other reviews and announcements but I haven’t been able to find the names of the musicians playing behind Ms. Roston. But it is a tight hot little quartet with bass, drums, piano, and saxophone /flute. And they provide the perfect musical bed that allows Ms. Roston to do her thing! From my seats I couldn’t see the bass or piano because they were behind the proscenium and the whole combo was pulled back so they could be distanced from Ms. Roston who was centered in the thrust stage and distanced from the audience. But the sound was perfect!
My one quibble…whoever wrote the book could have added more detail on Ms. Fitzgerald’s backstory, career, and the Great American Songbook. I realize the story is just to stitch the songs together, but I would have appreciated more detail.
IF YOU GO! I was there Tuesday night, April 27th, the first performance night. Friday April 30th is the official opening night and the show is currently scheduled to run through May 23, 2021. You can order tickets here!
And for safety?? You will be required to remain masked while in the theater and observe social distancing. When you purchase your ticket please pay attention because they are for timed entry. You will have to pass through an aisle of plexiglass to the theater entry and have your temperature taken. You will scan your own ticket and will be directed to the correct door into the theater. Total capacity is 25% so you will not be seated near anyone other than your own companion(s). And exit is controlled by the ushers when the program completes, starting with those in the back rows. Unavailable seats are taped off so that they can not be used. I can’t imagine how discouraging that must be for the performers to not only see empty seats but to see the obvious tape limiting their use.
But this is an enchanting show and if you are comfortable returning to the theater, here’s a good place to start. So let me leave you with this highlight of the evening: