For two nights only, black curtains and white chairs transform Kennedy's Cafetorium into a Broadway stage.
With professional lighting and amped up sound- and only the occasional technical glitch - students from grades seven to 12 display their array of talents in musical, dancing, and acting numbers, as well as in a visual art show.
This is Kennedy Honors, a four-year tradition at JFK celebrating excellence in the fine and performing arts. The performance can most nearly be compared to a variety show, where the acts are designed around the students.
Page One / Allie Vugrincic
Joe Campana’s “Kennedy” is displayed in the art show.
Photo special to Page One
Seventh grader Tommy Yanovich starts off “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” with a drum solo.
"I think the best thing is having different acts that demand certain skills from the students," said senior singer Allison Mintus. "Through these we are able to showcase the variety of talents our school is blessed with."
This year's show, which took place in late April, featured scenes from three Broadway musicals, opening with "I Hope I Get It" from "A Chorus Line" and closing with a mash-up of songs from "The Lion King" with the "Chicago" hit "Cell Block Tango" sandwiched in between.
Broadway wasn't the only focus, however. "This year, we incorporated a lot more dancing numbers, which was great because normally the show only has two dancing numbers or so," said senior and three-year performer Angelene Coates.
There were also three short, one-act plays spotlighting actors, several piano solos, a student-produced music video and a rock band that jammed to the classic "Hit Me with Your Best Shot."
Seventh grader Tommy Yanovich made his debut as the drummer in the rock number.
"Even though it was my first year, I'll surely remember this one as a junior high student," said Yanovich, who plans to participate in the show until he graduates. "By the time I am a senior I'll look back and see how far I have come with the arts at Kennedy."
The show itself has come far in the four years since its invention. The idea, brought to life by directors Brian Sinchack and Staci Raab - principal and vice principal at the time - and Jeanine Bofenkamp, was to create a theater production that would honor Kennedy teachers and alumni who had dedicated their lives to the arts.
Originally, the show was called Kennedy Center Honors after the red carpet event held in Washington, D.C. The word "center" was dropped, but the idea remained, as well as the directors, now school president and principal respectively.
This year's honoree was 1976 JFK graduate Chris Columbus, who has written, directed and produced dozens of movies, including "The Goonies." "Gremlins" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Columbus, who couldn't be at the show to receive his award, sent an acceptance video in which he showed audience members film memorabilia. He joins JFK teachers Fred Hoover and Marilyn Binko and alumnus Rick Muccio on the list of past honorees.
This year's show was considered a success by the students, who performed for a sold-out crowd of more than 300 people opening night.
"I think the show has grown to be bigger and better every single year," Coates said. "The props, the singing and the dancing never fail to impress the audience."
As are all things, the closing of the show was bittersweet for the seniors.
"I basically raised this show," said Allison Mintus. "I've been in it since the first year, and despite it having its ups and downs, I will miss it."
"[Kennedy Honors] was my first experience with shows, and ever since the first year I've been in love with performing on stage," said Coates, who remains optimistic about the future of the show.
"Everyone involved in the show knows that it has very high standards to live up to, so if they want to make it good, they know they have to work their butt off to prove it," said Coates.
"I think it should change and go forward," said Yanovich as he considered his next five years as part of the production. "I think we should have another music act, considering music is what I do in the show. Other than that, everyone has their own specific talents and that's what makes the show unique and awesome."