Mickee’s favorite food is banana pudding — or in his words, “Nana Puddin’.”
The puppet is a part of ventriloquist show by Dennis Lee that is coming to Fremont Alliance Church in Fremont on March 4.
Lee and his Nana Puddin’ friends are also lined up to do a show at Clarmar Elementary School and at Bell Field Elementary on March 3. The Saturday evening performance at Fremont Alliance starts at 6 p.m.
Paula Rhoads, director of children’s ministry at Fremont Alliance, said she has been a huge fan of Lee since she and her husband, Jeff, saw him at a children’s pastors conference several years ago.
“He was the MC and we looked forward to him at every meal or time he performed,” she said. “Last year, we had Miss Patty Cake and so many came. As soon as it was over we started thinking who we wanted the next year.”
Lee will be at a pastor’s conference in Kansas City that same week, so it will be an easy transition to come to Nebraska the next day. When Rhoads was also able to get his show scheduled for the two schools, she was elated.
“It’s wonderful because it’s the two schools that surround our church,” she said.
Lee grew up in Texas where his parents taught him at an early age to be a ventriloquist. His ministers also encouraged him to practice at church every Sunday.
After graduating from North Texas University with a degree in communications, he embarked on his journey. The Puddin’ group members who talk are Mickee, Grizzwold as the “ Don’t Touch My Hair” dude, Liza Jane, and Nick the Punk Monk.
Lee formed Nana Puddin’ Productions as a total agency of performers who share the Nana Puddin’ recipe ingredients of comedy, music, audience participation, educational and spiritual material.
“Our goal is to bring laughter, learning, and love to every person we meet, every day,” Lee said.
Lee asks people to imagine a world where every child is nurtured and loved, to imagine a world where children become adults who realize their self worth, and a world where laughter and kindness is part of all people’s everyday life.
Rhoads said that philosophy closely matches her vision and that of Fremont Alliance.
“Our unique ability to cross the age spectrum in every group we speak in is what sets our company apart,” Lee said.
Performers are also required to develop new creative musical programs that entertain while educating. Lee’s show, “ARMY of 1” featuring Mickee, stresses that one life is important to God. One life matters and makes a difference.
“To have the best one life we can be, we have to have strong character, discipline, and learn to follow the rules,” Lee said.
Children also learn that attitude is their choice, and no one can choose it for them. Children in school settings also learn character building. Lee’s newest show finds him and his Nana Puddin’ bunch sailing the ocean blue. In S.P.O.T.S (Super, Positive, Outstanding, Terrific Students), he reminds his audiences life is a journey and people need the right tools to find the treasure (God). Children learn that peer pressure, drugs, violence and hate can steal that treasure.
Rhoads said he appeals to all ages and it’s fun to watch the adults’ reactions to his show.
“Sarah, my 5-year-old is just counting the days, and she dances all the time to his music.”
Rhoads said she gets so caught up in Lee’s performance that, “I never see his lips move, so I start thinking his friends are real.”
The show above all is an outreach to the church, the neighborhood and the community.
“We want to let the community know kids are important. They are our next generation. They need to know they are loved and treasured,” Rhoads said.
Through the outreach of these shows, the church gains some children for its AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) young people’s program and Rhoads said that’s great, but church officials believes there’s nothing more important than the children themselves, whether or not they become a part of Fremont Alliance.
“There’s a hole in everyone’s heart and if we don’t fill it with people who care, we find it another way. We want all children to find healthy resources to feel loved and important,” she said.
The March 4 show is free and a nursery will be provided for those under age 3. Everyone is invited to stay after the show for refreshments and fellowship. Because the church focuses on children the show is geared to them, however Lee also adds humor adults can appreciate.
Rhoads looks forward to the event.
“I’m so grateful to be a part of a church that supports me and allows me to do these things for our children and our community,” Rhoads said. “I’m excited we can bring Lee to Fremont.”