Each year, First Coast residents have the opportunity to see local artists and entertainers who are “on their way to stardom.” Douglas Anderson’s annual Extravaganza showcases top performers from each of the school’s arts areas.
Although these are student artists, the show isn’t exactly a pageant for parents; it’s a full-scale professional grade performance for the entire community. According to DA Principal Jackie Cornelius, a good majority of the audience is not even affiliated with the school. “Extravaganza is an evening of artistry and entertainment that highlights the very best of student achievement at Douglas Anderson,” says Cornelius. “The performances range from theater to dance to instrumental music, adding up to an entertaining and exhilarating celebration of the arts.”
This year’s showcase, which was held on February 15, at the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts, included Broadway-style dance and vocal numbers; an orchestra performance of Christopher Theofanidis’ Visions and Miracles; “Enemy Behind the Gates,” choreographed by Christopher Huggins (formerly of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York); and the piano concerto, Toccata Op. 15 accompanied by a dazzling light show. Soprano Rebecca Shorstein was featured as a Shining Star, a DA alumna and special guest performer. Shorstein’s successful career as a vocalist can be directly credited to the rigorous preparation she received at DA.
Extravaganza began in the 1980s shortly after the school opened as an arts institution. Originally it was promoted as “A Holiday Gift to Jacksonville” and presented each December at the old Civic Auditorium downtown. Ace Martin, currently the chairperson of the Instrumental Department, developed the idea in 1985 to “give the students the chance to experience the highest level of a professional show and to raise critically needed arts funding.”
From a departmental perspective, says Phyllis Penney, the chair of the Dance Department, “it’s good to have all of the departments represented.” The classes from different arts areas frequently collaborate for the Extravaganza and create interdisciplinary programming. Penney notes that this has especially become a tradition with the Piano and Dance Departments.