Recently three of my kids and I took an impromptu field trip to The Center for Puppetry Arts for their homeschool day production of Duke Ellington’s Cat:
On the road with jazz great Duke Ellington is one cool cat. From the early days in the pool halls to the concert halls performing before crowned heads, this feisty feline has been at Duke’s side, sometimes even sitting in with the band.
But not everything is in rhythm. One day when Duke is to play a suite in honor of the Queen of England, the score has been stolen! Will the cat find the music and get it to the Duke in time?
This lyrical look at the life and times of one of America’s musical giants gets right in the middle of a career that spanned from the Roaring Twenties through the Civil Rights Movement.
The show features a mix of flat rod puppets (some are huge), shadow puppets, and short film sequences of stop-motion animation. The puppets seemed to glow in the dark thanks to the use of ultraviolet paint and lights. The cast of five puppeteers demonstrated a few tricks and techniques for us after the show. I was amazed that the vocals were performed live during each performance using cordless microphones mounted on headbands.
As well as original music composed in the style of Duke Ellington, the recorded music is a showcase of some of Ellington’s greatest compositions such as “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t got that Swing.”
Ticket price includes a create-a-puppet workshop, admission to the museum, and a special exhibit featuring the work of Jim Henson. We enjoyed the museum almost as much as the show. The room pictured on the left contained a floor-to-ceiling collection of strange and interesting puppets that sometimes seemed to have a life of their own!
There are lots of interactive activities. When my daughter moved the levers (pictured below), she activated a large puppet head on the wall in front of her. We also had a lot of fun on a scavenger hunt searching for items throughout the museum.
What’ll Ya Have???
No trip to downtown Atlanta is complete without a visit to The Varsity, America’s largest drive-in, for chili dogs, onion rings, and a frosted orange! Thanks to my dedicated documenting of the day and failure to take a picture while we were there, I snapped this one out the window as we drove away. Don’t try this at home!
A playful blend of fact, fiction, and history, Duke Ellington’s Cat entertained us all. This fabulous puppet show runs through this Sunday, at the Center for Puppetry Arts in downtown Atlanta.