Ella: It's ten years this month since songstress Ella Fitzgerald died. Fitzgerald, whose romantically distinctive voice has gently passed from generation to generation since her first recordings in 1936, didn't so much have her own songs but rather made anything she sang an Ella experience. In the past year, Florida Stage has boldly sent up the Andrews Sisters and Judy Garland in similar musical bios, so the company clearly maintains positive support and a sturdy infrastructure for such creations. The nervous question as you take your seat is, then: What person can possibly inhabit Ella Fitzgerald for the next two hours? Did they call in a ringer? The answer is yes, and no, in Tina Fabrique, who is strong, dynamic, and engaging. Fabrique delivers a rich cabaret of Fitzgerald songs. In this sense, Fabrique is a ringer, seemingly the leading Ella impersonator around. Between studio session numbers, Fitzgerald does what's expected, laying out her life in a series of prosaic true confessions. You know the drill the humble beginnings, the lousy marriages, the ups and downs, the sins and the penances. Through this expiation, you learn some useful facts. But what goes through your head most during Ella is that as good as Fabrique and her band are and they are excellent missing is the indefinably distinct charisma of Fitzgerald's darling voice. It was a once-in-a-century voice. Dave Amber Through September 3. Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan; 561-585-3433.
This Is How It Goes: A hit at New York's Public Theater and London's Donmar Warehouse in 2005, Neil LaBute's savage one-act play celebrates its Florida premiere at the GableStage. Although Joseph Adler's direction is swift, the whole affair was a couple of rehearsals short of ready on opening night, and one of the trio of characters had trouble hitting his marks on time. Jeff Quinn's lighting appropriately mirrors the abrupt changes in the script, though it was a tad plodding, but Lyle Baskin's stage design falls victim to the temptation offered by the Biltmore's very wide stage. It would spoil things to give away the plot's many twists, but it is meant to make one cringe, and the script calls for a heavy dose of mental cruelty; LaBute's characters are often as repugnant as they are ordinary and they ring true. Octavio Roca Through July 23. GableStage at the Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1119, www.gablestage.org.
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