What the critics are saying:

 

"Cason hits one highlight after another out of the park, then tops them in brilliant duets with Rollins-Mullens' gravel-voiced Louis Armstrong on "Cheek to Cheek" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." After some delightful scat riffs on "Over the Rainbow," she brings it all home with a superb "The Man I Love," "Blue Skies" and "How High the Moon."

-- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle

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"Remarkably puts you in the presence of Ella Fitzgerald....Cason is absolutely stunning as Ella -- in voice, appearance, timing and presence -- and she gives the role the ride of its life."

-- Pat Craig, San Jose Mercury News/Contra Costa Times

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"The joint was rocking!"

-- Kedar K. Adour, For All Events


" The production of “Ella,” which opened this past week in Walnut Creek, under the auspices of the Center Repertory Company, delivers a delightful evening of fond musical memories of Ella Fitzgerald.

Director Robert Barry Fleming, who has numerous San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics and Shellie awards, has gathered a terrific cast of musicians and acting artisans who deliver songs that never grow old, not for me at least. This upbeat musical is like sitting in a cabaret with Ella while she sings all the great jazz songs by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington.

The show resonates with songs like “The Nearness of You,” “Our Love is Here to Stay,” “That Old Black Magic,” “My Buddy,” “Blue Skies,” “How High the Moon” and of course, “Oh, Lady Be Good.”

Fitzgerald is an entertainment icon, often referred to as the “First Lady of Song” or the “Queen of Jazz.” She captured the musical world in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s with her three-octave range, sweet and beautiful voice, phrasing and intonation, and her incredible diction that was further underscored by her song-styling innovation.

Yvette Cason is an excellent choice to play the remarkable Ella Fitzgerald, as she is an outstanding actress and has a marvelous voice with terrific range and tonal diversity. She is joined by Cassidy Brown who portrays her one-time manager and revered jazz-recording entrepreneur, Norman Granz. Anthony Rollins-Mullens plays several important support characters, including in one vignette the gravel-voiced Louis Armstrong.

The band is not only made up of musicians but they also act out numerous characters that joined Fitzgerald along her performance highway. Mark Lee is her drummer, Joe McKinley is the bassist, Kelly Park puts his talent on the ivories and Mark Wright delivers a mean trumpet performance. This entire program sheds a poignant and loving light on the incredible voice, singing style diversity and even the difficult love life of this great talent who left such a remarkable musical heritage for us all.

“Ella” is sentimental, heartfelt and fun, which guarantees to help forget those troubles. "

-- Charles Jarrett, Rossmoor News