Jazz Fly Hits the Stage in Queens, NY!

OK, so this isn’t exactly Broadway, or even Off Broadway, but in terms of sheer innocence and joy, this performance is a delight. Months ago, I got an email from teacher Helaine Witt of the Ellington School, P.S. 140 in Queens, NY. She asked if I would consider granting permission to her school to create a spring play based on The Jazz Fly book and audio CD. A number of schools have staged plays based on my books in the past. Usually, I just ask, in return for non-commercial permissions, that schools send me a recording of some sort, audio or DVD, or photos of the play for my amusement after the fact.

What arrived a few months later via a flash drive blew me away: the costumes, the dancing, the precision of the kids’ chanting. Helaine and her co-producer, teacher Dayna DiPreta, did something amazing. With precious few resources at their disposal, they organized two classes of grade school kids, many of whom deal with quite challenging life circumstances; then they fully engaged the kids in the content of a musical book. Finally, they helped the kids interpret the Jazz Fly book on stage before a packed crowd.

Many of her students, Helaine explained to me, are kids who have trouble relating to books, so “anything they will sit still for is a godsend.”

This comment got me thinking about the genre of musical books. Maybe the key for some kids is simply NOT to have to sit still. I RELATE to those sorts of kids because truth be told, I may be a little hyper-active myself. (I deliberately keep reference books and file cabinets AWAY from my desk so I have an excuse to pop up from my chair every few minutes.) At any rate, I think kids should be at liberty to strut, wiggle and bounce around while experiencing a rhythmic story on CD.

The teachers and kids at the Ellington School GOT that, and for me seeing their play was one of the most rewarding things imaginable. To see their video for yourself on YouTube, just click below. Enjoy!