JP Taravella Holds Benefit Performances to take “Ragtime” to States


By: Sharon Aron Baron

The Florida State Thespians recently bestowed a tremendous honor on the JP Taravella Drama Department when its student presentation of Ragtime was chosen as one of five full length musicals to be presented mainstage at its Festival 2015 in Tampa this April.

The purpose of a Mainstage Production is to “showcase” the outstanding theatre present in secondary schools throughout the state of Florida for the current year. Taravella has been recognized with this honor three other times with productions of Les Miserables, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and On the Town. This offers students an opportunity to not only share theatre with other Thespians but, to work in a professional environment with professional technicians.

The Florida State Thespian Festival is the largest high school theatre festival in the world.  To be asked to perform our production of Ragtime for this audience is the highest honor and we are so very grateful for the opportunity.” – Director Lori Sessions JP Taravella High School Drama

Dashawn Perry and Leanne Antonio - Broadway Future Stars Award Nominees as Coalhouse and Sarah. Photo courtesy Ian Ibbetson

Dashawn Perry and Leanne Antonio – Broadway Future Stars Award Nominees as Coalhouse and Sarah. Photo courtesy Ian Ibbetson

This production was a labor of love for all the 104 students involved. Under the direction of Sessions, 2012 Broward Education Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee and musical direction of Michael Larsen, Professional Music Director, students rehearsed for two months before the first production and all were committed to professional quality theatre.

According to Sessions, the students were thrilled to receive this honor and anxious to share this wonderful production with the state Thespian members. In addition, Dashawn Perry, playing the role of Coalhouse and Leanne Antonio, playing the role of Sarah, have been nominated as finalists for the Broadway Star of the Future Award. The award was created in 2009 by The David A. Straz, Jr. Center of the Performing Arts and is given to one male and one female high school student in recognition for their outstanding performance in a musical theater production. Winners will be announced during the closing ceremony of the Florida State Thespian Festival in March. The winners could also have the opportunity to represent the state of Florida and the Straz Center at The National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSMTA) tentatively scheduled for June 24 – June 30, 2015 in New York City.

In addition to the honors Ragtime received, JP Taravella earned 21 Superior Ratings and 6 Critic’s choices at the District 7 Thespian Competition on their student prepared musical and acting events. Melissa Lawrence was selected to represent the entire district at Opening Ceremonies at the State Festival with her performance of And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going from Dream Girls.

Taking a show on the road is not easy. This honor does not come with financial support. Students must pay about $500 each to fund transportation, accommodations and registration fees. In addition, Sessions estimates it will cost $28,000.00 to remount the show and transport the production to Tampa.

If you missed it the first time you have another chance to see this award winning production. With a beautiful score, scenery built by JPT’s stagecraft class, over 200 costumes, a tremendous cast and full student orchestra, this is a must see.

To raise money for this terrific honor, there will be two benefit performances on March 19 and 20 at 7:00pm. All Tamarac and Coral Springs residents are encouraged to attend and support this local Broward County Public High School.

Tickets to the benefit performances are $25.00 and can be purchased at If you are able to help sponsor this production or a student in need please email Visit their website at for more information.

Author Profile

Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron
Editor of Talk Media and writer for Coral Springs Talk. CST was created in 2012 to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Coral Springs and the rest of South Florida.

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