Publix the musical! Lakeland students star in show about founder's legacy

Play written by principal, produced by teachers

By Brianna Volz - Web producer
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LAKELAND, Fla. - So many people love Publix, but it’d be hard to argue that anyone loves the grocery store’s history more than the students and faculty at Harrison School for the Arts, especially after their latest performance.

The students recently debuted an original musical written by their principal about Publix founder George Jenkins at the city’s chamber of commerce annual meeting.

Principal Daryl Ward said the idea for the musical, which focused on Jenkins’ philanthropic life, came after Janice Tedder Jones, the former chairwoman of the chamber, approached him about an idea to enhance the meeting.

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted an annual meeting that was not only inspiring, but also entertaining,” Jones said. “How better to accomplish that than to be inspired and entertained by the students at Harrison, a local gem that many people are not aware of. I’ve long been a fan of the Harrison productions, and this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to showcase their many talents.”

The musical, titled “When you Dream,” shows how Jenkins was rejected by the owners of the store he worked for before going into business himself when he had ideas to bring to the table, and the way he was able to use that to fuel his passions.

It also shows how, after he became successful with his own brand, he used his fortune to give back to the community. 

“The biggest takeaway for audiences is that the spirit of giving that ‘Mr. George’ embodied continues to reverberate throughout our community to this day, and Polk County students are blessed to be able to have an arts education that gives them opportunities to connect with their community’s history in such a meaningful way,” principal Daryl Ward said.

After Ward wrote the scripts and song lyrics, teachers worked together to produce the play for the students, who were eager to perform in it.

Harrison teacher Suzi Lambert said the entire process was a learning experience for all.

“This is entirely original content. The students don’t have anything to reference or model. That presents many unique learning opportunities for the students,” Lambert said. “We’ve also brought in students from many different areas, including chorus, drama, musical theater, orchestra and the jazz department, to collaborate on this production. Doing so exposes the students to the way their peers approach their art, and it gives them all a more comprehensive picture of what the arts can do for the individual.”

Publix also got in on the production, donating items like shopping carts and baskets used throughout the show. 

Polk County Public Schools posted rehearsal footage in the video embedded below, which was posted to the school district’s Facebook page.

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