The Crusader Newspaper Group

‘Ella & Lena: The Ladies and Their Music’

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

On November 17, 2017, at 7:30 p.m., the Auditorium Theatre and popular Chicago vocalist Joan Curto celebrate the legacies and centennials of vocal icons Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne with “Ella & Lena: The Ladies and Their Music,” an evening created and directed by Curto. This one-night-only performance features Chicago  favorites E. Faye Butler, Beckie Menzie, Tammy McCann, Paul Marinaro, Tom Michael, Sophie Grimm, Rich Daniels and the City Lights Orchestra, and Curto herself.

The evening includes songs that each woman truly made her own, from “Stormy Weather” to “Oh, Lady Be Good.” The big-band celebration will be conducted by Rich Daniels and the City Lights Orchestra.

“We look forward to honoring the incredible legacies of Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne, two powerful performers and inspiring activists, on our historic stage,” says Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “The talented cast, featuring some of Chicago’s greatest jazz and cabaret performers, will bring the ladies’ classic songs to life.”

The evening highlights connections between Fitzgerald and Horne and ties in their relationships to the city of Chicago. Both women performed numerous times at the Chicago nightclub Chez Paree, and Fitzgerald recorded one of her most successful albums, Live at Mr. Kelley’s, at the famous club of the same name.

“It’s thrilling to honor the lives and music of Ella and Lena with such an accomplished group of artists on a stage with the history and beauty of the Auditorium Theatre,” says Curto.

About the Performers

E. Faye Butler
E. Faye Butler

Faye Butler is an accomplished actress and singer who has performed around the world to international acclaim. She is the recipient of six Joseph Jefferson Awards and two Helen Hayes Awards. She currently is appearing in the acclaimed all-female version of The Taming of the Shrewat the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and is nominated for a Jeff Award for her performance as Matron Mama Morton in Drury Lane Theatre’s 2017 production of  “Chicago.”

Joan Curto is a vocalist who has appeared across the nation in concerts and clubs, often celebrating the music of the Great American Songbook. She has performed in many Chicago theatres and clubs, including the Auditorium Theatre (where she produced a birthday tribute to Cole Porter in 2016 and performed in Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn in 2015), the Harris  Theater, and Victory Gardens Theater. She is the recipient of the Chicago After Dark Award for Outstanding Cabaret Artist.

Rich Daniels is the founder of the City Lights Orchestra, a highly sought-after 45-piece ensemble that has performed with musicians including Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Dionne Warwick, Paul McCartney, and more.

Sophie Grimm is a vocalist and actor whose credits include Mom in the Writers Theatre production of “Trevor” the musical and Desdemona in “Othello: The Remix” at  Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the Globe. She also has performed across the country in jazz, cabaret, and concert settings.

Paul Marinaro is a jazz vocalist who has performed at venues including the Green Mill, Andy’s Jazz Club, and the Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park. Marinaro’s performances have been named among the best of the year in the Chicago Tribune numerous times. In 2013, he released his acclaimed debut album “Without a Song.”

Tammy McCann is an internationally recognized jazz vocalist who has performed with luminaries including Ramsey Lewis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Ray Charles. McCann has thrilled audiences around the world at venues such as the Blue Note, Carnegie Hall, and the Green Mill.

Beckie Menzie is a pianist and vocalist who has appeared on some of the nation’s top stages, including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. She performs regularly with Tom Michael, and as a duo they are recipients of Chicago After Dark’s Outstanding Cabaret Artist Award. She is the musical director for “Ella & Lena: The Ladies and Their Music.”

Tom Michael is a vocalist who regularly performs with his musical partner Beckie Menzie, and as a duo they are recipients of Chicago After Dark’s Outstanding Cabaret Artist Award. He has appeared on stages including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York and the Empire Room, the Auditorium Theatre, and the  Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago.

The Walsh Group is the Performance Sponsor and the DuSable Museum of African-American History is the Community Partner. Tickets start at $29 and are available online at, by phone at 312-341-2300, or in person at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E. Congress Parkway). “Ella & Lena: The Ladies and Their Music” may be added to the Auditorium Theatre’s Select Your Own subscription, discounted at 20-25%. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more.


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