Filmmaker David McDonald reanimates legendary club-owner Joe Zelli in The Royal Box

Jul 09, 2021 224

BY: Frances Marion Platt

When Almanac Weekly last caught up with Columbia County-based filmmaker David McDonald in early 2019, he was looking for backers to make a movie out of his screenplay Ella the Ungovernable. It was a juicy story about the horrific period in 1933-34 when 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald was an inmate at the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson when she escaped and within a few months got “discovered” on Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater.

When no movie studios immediately took the bait, McDonald reworked his script into a stage play, which drew considerable interest. Its debut at the Valatie Community Theatre in February 2020 sold out the house both nights, other Capital District venues were lining up to host the play. One of Off-Off-Broadway’s most venerable and prestigious institutions, Theatre for the New City, was about to commit to a live production.

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