Andre 3000’s sassy cast of musical kids, who celebrated everything from crayons to the blues in the short-lived TV cartoon series “Class of 3000,” have brought their eclectic sounds to the stage.
The man who created them says the show, like the cartoon, tries to teach kids the essence of music.
“This is about having fun with the music and melodies,” says Andre 3000, who was born Andre Benjamin and co-created the cartoon series with executive producer Tommy Lynch. “It’s not like we’re trying to throw candy-coated morals at kids. We’re bringing music to life for them to remember.”
The Cartoon Network cancelled the Emmy Award-winning show last spring, a year and a half after it debuted.
“Class of 3000 Live” opened over the weekend at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. The hourlong children’s play is expected to run through March 29. Benjamin hopes the production will eventually be performed in schools nationwide.
The show is based on the cartoon’s first-ever episode “Life Without Music.” Jazz and blues artist Sunny Bridges flees his own international stardom to return to Atlanta, where he runs into rambunctious 12-year-old Lil’ D and seven of his energetic friends who are seeking a music teacher at their performing arts middle school. Bridges ends up making them his students.
All featured songs were created by Benjamin, who is known for his 2004 smash hit “Hey Ya!” He and Big Boi of the six-time Grammy-winning group OutKast have churned out six platinum-plus albums, including their ubiquitous “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”
Each song from “Class of 3000” features Benjamin’s jazzy melodies. He hopes the kids who attend the performances can learn more about how music is formed through instruments – the same way he did when he was younger.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the teenybopper, kiddie sounds or stupid songs,” he says. “I wanted to introduce them to different styles of music I was introduced to. From funk to jazz to calypso music, just to let them know there’s a base from what they are hearing now.”
“Class of 3000,” which won an Emmy in 2007 for Individual Achievement in Animation, aired on the Cartoon Network but didn’t make it past two seasons. The Alliance contacted Cartoon Network and ended up going with “Class of 3000” not long after the show was dropped.
Director Rosemary Newcott, who has worked at the Alliance Theatre for over 20 years, says it was a “no-brainer” in choosing the show.
“The whole spirit of this show is infused with him, with his sense of humour and his love for music,” she says of Benjamin. “That’s a valuable trait that draws people in.”