Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies – the newest production of Inside Broadway – provided more than 4,000 elementary and junior high school students with an introduction to jazz, and to the flowering of music and literature known as the Harlem Renaissance.
The show, presented at Town Hall on March 7 and 21, primarily showcases the music and career of Duke Ellington, but also touches on those of Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker.
Local 802 members played a significant role, both in the stage production and in presenting jazz workshops in the schools. Musical director Corinne Aquillina and bass player Bim Strassberg, both shown at right speaking with students, and drummer Ken Swinkin performed.
“There is nothing like the Broadway experience to expand and enrich the imagination of a child,” said Inside Broadway Executive Director Michael Presser. “Bringing the professional theatre to children allows us to have a significant role in shaping Broadway’s next generation of performers and theatre-goers, as well as setting new horizons for youthful interests and creativity.”
Presser told Allegro that this new production is of particular significance because jazz is so central a part of it. As well as the stage production, he pointed out that Inside Broadway had teaching artists out in the schools throughout March, leading jazz workshops at most of the schools that were going to be coming to see the show.
The guest artists introduced students to the instruments, history and world of jazz. Inside Broadway also provided teachers with a study guide about Duke Ellington and the Harlem Renaissance for a classroom lecture or discussion.
Inside Broadway has worked for the last 18 years to expand the horizons and stimulate the imaginations of thousands of public school children through a theatre-based curriculum. Each school’s program is designed to meet its individual curricular needs, as well as the diverse needs of its students.