Puppet Masters

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We’re spending the long weekend in Birmingham, AL with our godson. We picked up a mutual friend of ours (Wes) in Durham on our way down here on Wednesday. Yesterday was one of our godson’s typical on call days, where he is in the hospital for 30+ hours in a row. As sad as we were to miss time with him, the three of us decided to turn lemons into lemonade and create an adventure for ourselves.

We drove to Atlanta mid-morning. We headed straight to a friend’s house and arrived at around 1pm (Atlanta and Birmingham are not in the same time zone). We had an amazing lunch in a local eatery, Ria’s Bluebird. Wes did something I have never seen before, and it was really cool. After the waitress described two incredible specials (the omelet of the day and a chicken special), Wes asked her to surprise him with one of them. I was impressed that she didn’t hem and haw, and just said “OK”.

I ordered the chicken special (stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and topped with a blackberry sauce!) and Wes ended up with that as well. We both couldn’t stop talking about how good it was, after not being able to stop enjoying it in the moment… As you can see, it looks as good as it tasted!

Rias Bluebird

Rias Bluebird

We then headed over to the main attraction of the day, seeing a Puppet Show! Yes folks, we were really looking forward to it. The show was performed at The Center for Puppetry Arts. It’s called Sam the Lovesick Snowman. Our tickets were waiting for us, as one of the puppeteers is a friend of the person we were visiting in Atanta.

If you are paying too much attention, then you will have noticed that I tagged this post (and categorized it) with Broadway. Obviously, this puppet show wasn’t on Broadway. That said, Broadway signifies the epitome of live performances (or at least they want to convey that), and this show qualifies as an incredible live performance.

Even a normal puppet show is filled with real acting. In this case, in addition to the puppet acting, the two puppeteers had a fair amount of time on stage as themselves. But even when a puppeteer is behind the scenes, they are voice acting (don’t laugh, Angelina Jolie doesn’t get the big bucks for doing a voice in Kung Fu Panda because she’s beautiful!), manipulating the puppets in a manner that is acting in the sense of transporting the audience somewhere, etc. In this show, they sang a bit too (reasonably well), including harmony.

There was a very good-sized audience yesterday. While there were many kids (no, really?), the kids didn’t get themselves there, so there were many adults (probably more than the number of kids. In addition, there were also people like us (four adults) who were there without kids, unabashedly. If you are an adult who isn’t comfortable going without a kid, do your friends or family a favor, and take their kids so that you can enjoy the show. 😉

The best kids entertainment has enough in it to entertain an adult. If it doesn’t, the adults won’t want to take the kids. Sometimes, it’s on a different level, where the kids have no idea why the adults are laughing. Sometimes it’s on the same level that the kids get. Sam the Lovesick Snowman has both. Everything that the kids loved we loved, for the same reasons the kids did. Yet, quite a number of times, there was a line that was just for adults (and no, I don’t mean adult content, but rather adult context for a particularly funny line).

The show is clever, heartwarming, funny, moves along at a good clip, etc. Everything you could want in 45 minutes of entertainment. When the show was over, the two puppeteers (Dolph Amick and Amy Rush) came out and explained how much of the show is performed. They show how some of the puppets work (rod puppets, hand puppets, etc.) and show how they use carts to move around the stage very quickly and be able to spin, etc.

I can only imagine the wonder in the kids’ eyes, because they were in our eyes as well. Not only doesn’t telling us how they did it spoil it in any way, it enhances the experience materially, as your mind boggles at how talented these puppeteers are to choreograph such a dance with so many characters in it, and only two of them working the magic.

If you don’t believe me, you can read an equally glowing review by a professional, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, written the same day we were enjoying the show! See, I’m not exaggerating about how good the show is. 🙂

Since Amy Rush is our friend’s friend, we were invited to hang around until the theater cleared, and we got a more detailed look at the behind the scenes happenings (Dolph was kind enough to come out and say hi to us as well, and to explain the magic). It’s not that we saw anything much more mysterious than everyone else did, but we got to ask questions, hold a few of the puppets (some are significantly heavier than you would think!), and we got to look at the actual staging from behind.

Wannabe Puppeteers

Wannabe Puppeteers

After that, Amy gave us a personal tour of the puppet museum (which is open to everyone, and well worth visiting). Having a passionate puppeteer give you a tour is an extra special treat, because you can get insight and details that would otherwise escape you. Thanks Amy!

Fraggle Rock Puppets

Fraggle Rock Puppets

We topped off a wonderful day with an amazing meal at Watershed. We’ve heard about Watershed a number of times from our friend, so we were really looking forward to the experience. Not only didn’t it disappoint, it exceeded our expectations! Starting with the drinks, it was obvious that this restaurant doesn’t aim to duplicate any other, but rather looks to blaze its own trail. I had a fig martini (I love figs, but have never seen a fig martini before). The ladies had beet martinis (I took a taste, it was fantastic).

All three appetizers were terrific, but the Shrimp Grits were so heavenly that Lois ordered an extra one to go, and she served it as a side to our godson this afternoon when he came home from a 30+ hour on call shift at the hospital. I was a little nervous as to whether it would taste even 1/2 as good reheated the next day, but he said it was awesome, so we now know the grits travel well! 🙂

We were warned that the Georgia Pecan Tart with Shortbread Crust was indescribably delicious. After getting assurance from Wes that he would share some of his, I ordered the Carrot Cake. We each took 1/4 of the others dessert. The Carrot Cake was very good, but my oh my, the Pecan Tart was indeed indescribably delicious, so I won’t try. 😉

The service at both Ria’s Bluebird and Watershed was exceptional. In fact, everyone we interacted with in Atlanta was very nice and warm. Not to put anyone else down, but it’s possible that our waitress at Watershed is just moonlighting from her normal job, which is likely an Angel! 🙂

After excellent hugs all around, we trekked the 2.5 hours back to Birmingham in the rain the whole way, but the high never wore off. It was a fantastic day, with fantastic people. We are all very thankful (on this weekend in particular) to get to call Amy Rush a friend as well, giving us another reason for getting back to Atlanta sooner rather than later!