Monday, April 26, 2010

Peoria Civic Center Theater 2010 - 2011 Season

The Peoria Civic Center has announced its 2010-2011 Broadway Theater Series Season.

Regular Season:
Fiddler on the Roof
Legally Blonde
Blue Man Group
The Color Purple

Optional Additional Choices:
Spring Awakening
Bus Stop
Cirque du Soliel: Dralion

As I have stated here before, this last season was one of the worst series ever.

This new 2010-2011 season is one to be excited about!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Spring! (a blessing for your garden)


by e.e. cummings


O sweet spontaneous

earth how often have



fingers of

prurient philosophers pinched




, has the naughty thumb

of science prodded


beauty . how

often have religions taken

thee upon their scraggy knees

squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive




to the incomparable

couch of death thy



thou answerest

them only with


Saturday, April 24, 2010

- Theater Review - Twelfth Night

Bradley University Theater closes their 2009-2010 season with the William Shakespeare comedy "Twelfth Night".

Up until last night, the absolute worst production that I had seen at BU was a few years ago when they did "Macbeth". (Perhaps they should avoid the Bard!?).

In the production of that tragedy, Lady Macbeth (a difficult role I realize) was so over-the-top melodramatic, that I was one of many in the audience who spent the entire performance suppressing inappropriate laughter.

Last night's comedy, which could have used some of those laughs, instead elicited mostly sighs and people constantly checking their watches.

This production's Lady Macbeth was the character of Sir Toby, played here as a one-dimensional stumbling drunk.

Shakespeare is difficult to do, and extremely difficult to do well. There is A LOT of dialog for the actors to learn. And, since it is so foreign to modern day conversational English, it is tough to deliver the lines distinctly and convincingly.

As usual, the Bradley student actors memorized their lines well and no one missed a cue.

If only they had had a director to help them understand that Shakespeare need not be shrieked at the audience to be effective.

In all the shrieking, much clarity was lost, and anyone unfamiliar with the play was probably left wondering what was actually going on.

Bradley University Theater had entitled this year's season "8 GR8 PLAYS 4 U".

After this closing clunker, I am calling it "7 GR8 PLAYS 4 U, AND 3 HRS OF MY LIFE DOWN THE 2B"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

- Theater Review - Altar Boyz

Praise the Lord!
Eastlight Theater opens their 2010 season with a big bang.

Or more accurately, with a joyful noise.

"ALTAR BOYZ" is presented as a concert event by a touring boy band that specializes in Christian music.

The five boys are Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham.
Matthew (Jeremy Kelly) is the ambitious leader of the band. Mark (Brandon Chandler) is the gay one with a not-so-secret crush on Matthew. Luke (Derek Pitzer) is the bad boy fresh from a stint in rehab for "exhaustion". Juan (Bryan Blanks) is the 'ethnic one' who longs to find the parents he never knew. Abraham (Stephen Dean Peterson) is the Jewish one and the band's lyricist who finds himself as the only non-Christian in a Catholic boy band.

The group's "Raise the Praise" tour is intended to evangelize and they measure the success of their mission through the Sony Soul Sensor DX-12, a machine that measures the number of troubled souls in the theater.

Each gospel-flavored song lowers the number until only four remain.
It turns out that those four belong to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Juan who have each signed a solo record deal and are struggling with the issues of loyalty and trust.

Abraham brings them back and heals their souls with the beautiful song "I Believe".

One great line is delivered during a flashback sequence showing how the Altar Boyz originally met.
When Abraham wanders into the Catholic church, he encounters Luke who wonders if Jews are even allowed in the church.
Abraham replies "Oh, I'm pretty sure they are. I just saw one on a cross over the altar."

This play is funny with a good score. Each of the five actors do an excellent job. They have good voices and the choreography, which is sometimes scaled back for a local theater group, is full throttle here. These boyz tear it up, and Luke's 'worm dance' is a real showstopper!

I last saw this show in Chicago with a professional touring company and I honestly think these local boyz did it better.

For the last many years, Eastlight Theater, under the guidance of Kathy Chitwood, has set the bar for local theater. They have hosted a couple world premiers, and first time community theater events (e.g. "Rent"), and consistently have brought fresh new professional-quality theater to the area. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time "Altar Boyz" has been presented locally.
I was saddened to hear of Kathy's decision to leave Eastlight. I hope that whoever succeeds her will be able to continue their fine tradition of exciting and innovative theater.

Eastlight has a shortened season this year (only three featured plays and the perennial "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat".) I suppose this is due to the money woes that are facing all Arts organizations.

So, please get out and see this one.
Local theater can continue only with YOUR support.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

- Theater Review - Tick, Tick... Boom!

One of my favorite musicals ever is "RENT" by Jonathan Larson. This rock adaptation of the Puccini opera "La Boheme" is one of the most creative, touching, and fun works I have ever seen on stage.

Broadway was robbed of so much potential when Larson succumbed to an aortic dissection at age 35 immediately prior to the meteoric success of "RENT".

"Tick, Tick... Boom!" is an earlier and even more autobiographical work by Larson that was produced off-Broadway in 2001, five years after his death.
I had never seen this one, so I was thrilled to find that it was being presented by the Peoria Cabaret Theatre at the Waterhouse.

And what an experience it turned out to be!

While this show is not quite the same caliber of "RENT", it is nevertheless a solid theatrical work with outstanding music, lyrics, and book. It is Jonathan Larson's own story as a struggling artist in New York City trying to break through in musical theater, and facing his dreaded thirtieth birthday.
He has a waning relationship with Susan. She is a dancer who, facing the reality of her limitations, begins to choose other dreams.
The third major character in the play is Jon's roommate Michael. These two have been friends since boyhood. Michael has already abandoned his own theater ambitions for a successful career on Madison Avenue. We soon learn that Michael has recently been diagnosed with AIDS.

There are several standout numbers, but one that seemed a particular audience favorite was "Sunday". This is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Larson's idol Steven Sondheim and a song by the same name from his play "Sunday in the Park With George". However, this "Sunday" is all about Sunday brunch!
Like several other numbers, this one is smart and funny.

In the end, what makes this great piece of theater really shine are the performances.

Kates Sitton does an excellent job as Susan and as Jon's potential new girlfriend, Karessa (the three actors play multiple minor roles).

The two male leads, Anthony Jumaane Hendricks (Michael), and Adam Sitton (Jon) were largely responsible for making "RENT" the standout production of Eastlight Theater's 2009 season (indeed, it was the standout production of the Peoria Area theater season!), Anthony as Collins and Adam as Roger.

Here they once again inhabit their roles and deliver flawless performances, choreography, and vocalizations.

The program informs that Mr. Sitton is a Communications Specialist for State Farm, but I believe this young man could enjoy a self-sustaining career in musical theater if he chose to pursue it.

His performance here is Broadway worthy.