SPRING HILL — A variety show Friday evening at Springstead Theater, featuring everything from show tunes to rock 'n' roll, will raise money for the latest venture of Shawn and Jessica Doolittle's nonprofit organization.
Titled "Concert for Hope," the show is by kids and for kids.
The Doolittle siblings — Shawn, 20, and Jessica, 15, entertainers and founders of a charitable organization called Kids Helping Kids — have performed far and wide, helping to raise money for a variety of causes. Friday, they hope to raise money for their own pet project, Journey Into the Performing Arts, an after-school program at J.D. Floyd K-8 School that offers dance, guitar, piano and voice lessons to young people who cannot otherwise afford them.
The program started in October and features volunteer educators — high school students with expertise in dance, music or vocal training. The teachers have choreographed the routines featured in "Concert for Hope," and all the performers are elementary and middle school age students.
Nicole Tordesillas, 11, along with four friends, is performing the song Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas.
"It's hip-hop with a lot of energy and attitude," said Nicole, a fifth-grader who has been taking after-school dance classes with Journey Into the Performing Arts.
Also in the show are 8-year-old twins Chase and Jade Mallard.
"I would not have been able to afford guitar lessons and multiple dance classes for my children," their father, Jonathan Mallard, said.
Chase takes guitar and hip-hop dance classes; Jade concentrates on ballet and jazz. Journey into the Performing Arts gave Chase a guitar so he could practice at home.
"It's been really fun," said Chase, who will dance in a number titled Hip-Hop Mix and play guitar in the Woody Guthrie favorite This Land Is Your Land.
Jessica Doolittle said there is "something in this show for everyone. The students have come a long way."
Jessica, a sophomore at Springstead High School, added that many of the children had never taken performing arts classes before entering the after-school program. The students range in age from 8 to 13.
Next fall, the Doolittles said, Journey into the Performing Arts will be open to elementary and middle school age children countywide, with room for about 100. They will meet after school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at J.D. Floyd. The program has the support of the Hernando County School Board, and the school donated two portable classrooms to the program.
Friday's show will be emceed by 12-year-old Michael Yost, a sixth-grader at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics. While not enrolled in the Journey program, he has assisted the Doolittles for the past three years when they performed at Timber Pines.
"I volunteer because I know it's going to a good cause," Michael said. And now that the program is opening to all students, he said, he may take guitar lessons in the fall.
The show opens with a rousing rendition of Willkommen from the musical Cabaret that will include all of the performers. The audience will also be treated to a piano recital of Prelude No. 3 in E-Minor by Robert Vandall, performed by educator Rebecca Braz, and I Love Rock 'n' Roll by rocker Joan Jett, performed by the Journey Into the Performing Arts band.
"This show will truly be a showcase of their talents," said Shawn Doolittle, who attends the University of Central Florida and is majoring in management information systems, with a minor in music.
Now living in Orlando, Shawn does not take part in the everyday work of the after-school program but is always available to perform and put together shows.
"We help give students a beginning into the arts, and when they want to get more professional we show them where to go," said Elizabeth Doolittle, Shawn and Jessica's mother.
She and husband Pete supervise the after-school classes and are there to guide the students. They even help make costumes.
"This show is really about children coming together to help each other out," Serena Young, director of the educators for the after-school program, said. A dance teacher at Powell Middle School, Young also owns Serena's Dance Palace in Brooksville, where Jessica is a student.
Proceeds from the Concert for Hope will purchase music stands for the Journey program's vocal and guitar classes, as well as wood laminate flooring and a mirrored wall for the dance classroom portable at J.D. Floyd.