Why did you choose DTC and/or Wilmington for the telling of ELLA’s story?
I chose DTC for the Ella Fitzgerald bio/musical for two reasons. The first is Bud Martin as the Executive Director of DTC, and, having performed my own show Tappin’ Thru Life, I knew Ella would receive a first class production. Bud’s whole team are not only totally professional, but they’re also unbelievably creative and contribute fantastic suggestions on how Ella’s story will come alive on the wonderful DTC stage.
Last but not least are the DTC audiences. Having experience their love for the theatre first hand and having worked with Ella myself with my brother Gregory and my father, I know she would be proud that her life will be produced by a theatre that has the class that she always exemplified. I feel honored and proud to direct the wonderful Freda Payne in Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song at the—I’ll say it again—fabulous Delaware Theatre Company for the fabulous Delaware Theatre Company audiences, and—of course—the fabulous Bud Martin. I’m gonna have a ball!
What was your first interaction with ELLA? Did you work with her?
Yes, my brother Gregory, my father, and I performed with the great Ella Fitzgerald at The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada twice.
What in particular inspired you to tell her story? What about her voice and music caught your ear?
Everything about Ella, both personally and professionally, inspired me to say ‘thank you’ to her for sharing her monumental gift as the greatest singer I’ve ever heard. That’s why I’m directing this show.
Your happiness is contagious when you perform. It's clear you're home on stage. What excites you about being a director? Are there any challenges?
I love directing as long as it’s a project that excites me to the degree that my creativity is effortless and I’m inspired by the subject. Just saying the great ‘Ella Fitzgerald’ name, and all of my talents come forward to pay my love and respect to the wonderful lady I knew so well.
I’m so grateful for this opportunity to thank her for being so wonderful to my family when we worked with her. Truly, one of the great moments in my life, in and out of show business, was being in the presence of genuine greatness! Ella you’re just the best!