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Satchmo Middle School Readies Jazz Ark Tale

The music and theater departments of East Elmhurst, N.Y.’s Louis Armstrong Middle School, in partnership with the Jazz Drama Program, are preparing their seventh original jazz musical, Nora’s Ark, written by jazz composer Eli Yamin and playwright Clifford Carlson. School students will star in the musical, which will run from April 28 to May 1.

Louis Armstrong Middle School has been producing original musical theater every year since 1998, when it was featured on NPR’s JazzSet with Branford Marsalis (JazzSet is now hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater). Last year Carlson teamed with Yamin, an alumnus of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, to produce Holding the Torch for Liberty, a musical about women’s suffrage.

Nora’s Ark, as the name hints, is a retelling of the Noah’s Ark story. In this modern version, animals recently freed from captivity at the Bronx Zoo have new problems to face when food is forgotten on their sea faring voyage. They must find a solution together, or die in the struggle.

Inspired by Charles Mingus, Louis Armstrong and Barry Harris, the production’s music will be played by student and professional musicians. The student actor-singers have been coached and directed by professional artists including Shireen Dickson, a member of the Dianne McIntyre Dance Company and Yamin, a pianist and current Lincoln Center Institute teaching artist.

Weekly rehearsals began in February. On April 28, 29 and 30 the show will take place at the school during school hours. The May 1 performance will begin at 7 p.m. at the same location. For more info, contact Clifford Carlson at the Louis Armstrong Middle School at (718) 335-7500, or Eli Yamin at the Jazz Drama Program at [email protected].

Originally Published