Kim Nalley hits a high note with sold-out 'Ella' run
By Oakland Jazz Music Examiner, Brian McCoy January 4, 1:36 PM
The hottest jazz ticket in Northern California this month appears to Kim Nalley’s production, “Ella: The American Dream” running through January 17 at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma. The venue’s website reveals that all nine performances have sold out. Regular tickets ranged from $28-$35, while the New Year’s Eve show ran $55-$60. No doubt it helps that Nalley has not just the pipes but a record of pulling off such bio- revues. The singer has a degree in history from Berkeley and has combined her twin
interests before in such productions as the award-winning "She Put a Spell on Me: Tribute to Nina Simone" and “The Heart of Lady Day," a Billie Holiday biopic. Cinnabar Theatre artistic director Elly Lichenstein commissioned “Ella,” the Petaluma newspaper reports.
Lichenstein commissioned this project because she views Fitzgerald’s life as a phenomenon and thought it would be an interesting and touching musical or play. Lichenstein knew of Nalley’s work and asked her to play the role of Fitzgerald. What Lichenstein didn’t know was that Nalley would bring her vision to life.
In addition to her vocal and artistic talents, Nalley is also a historian and well versed in the Ella Fitzgerald era. She not only accepted the role as Ella, but also offered to write the story. Lichenstein agreed.
“The groundwork for this project has been laid out over the past several years,” said Nalley, who became inspired by Fitzgerald after reading a book about her in 1999. Asked what inspired her the most about Fitzgerald’s life, Nalley said that the singer’s life personified hope.
“Ella went through a lot, and wasn’t bitter. She was a happy person and wanted to make others happy,” said Nalley. “She knew how to keep hope.”
Kim Nalley's Ella Fitzgerald bio-revue
is enjoying a sold-out run in Petaluma kimnalley.com