Saturday, September 7, 2013

- Theater Review - Les Miserables

Peoria Players opened their 95th season Friday night with a stunning production of "Les Miserables".

Based on the iconic Victor Hugo novel, this story has a bit of everything - love, passion, politics, penance, redemption, faith, and the meaning of life. 
As a musical, it has been wildly popular and is, indeed, one of this patron's favorite modern musicals.
Given the show's soaring, operatic score, it is also a difficult and ambitious undertaking for any amateur theater group.  I held my breath in anticipation, wondering if Peoria Players could pull it off.

I am happy to report that not only did they "pull it off", but this production replaces "Drowsy Chaperone" on my list as the best thing I have ever seen on the Players' stage!

With a large cast of dozens, there was not a single mediocre vocal performance in the lot.
Among the principles, it is extemely difficult to single out any performance as being superior to the others.  Having said that, John Huerta as Inspector Javert was nearly flawless.  Likewise, Brian Witkowsi as Marius, has a quite amazing and powerful voice.  These two could easily have thrown away their body mics and still deliver the performances they did. 

Although his voice cracked on the admittedly difficult but beautiful "Bring Him Home", Charles Brown was excellent as Jean Valjean.  According to the program this was Mr. Brown's first leading role at PPT in 34 years!  Please, Mr. Brown, do not stay away so long!

Ashley Rufus (Fantine) did a great job on the classic "I Dreamed a Dream".  Chloe Martin's wonderful performance as Cosette was only marred by her microphone cutting out during two of her beautiful numbers.  Lindsey Pugh also was excellent as the star-crossed Eponine. 

Veteran actor Steve Bortolotti and Rachel Lewis shone as the dastardly but lovable Thenardiers.  Their delivery of the comic-relief "Master of the House" was precisely executed.  Not only did the actors belt out the number appropriately, but they moved seamlessly among their guests relieving them of their valuables in a perfectly choreographed number.

In a brilliant bit of casting, Gianna Colombo as Gavroche was a double threat.  Not only did this young lady deliver a great vocal performance, but her acting was superb.  I predict a great future for this young actress. I only hope she is in dance class as well in order to become the proverbial triple threat!

In a presentation of this caliber, one must acknowledge the director.  Indeed, Connie Sinn's direction was apparent in the attention to every detail in this show.  I have seldom seen such focus on the part of the actors.  Anytime you have dozens of people on the stage at once, you can usually see one or two scanning the audience or mugging for their relatives.  I never saw a single actor 'out of character' and I attribute this to Ms. Sinns' direction.

As stated earlier, this is one of my favorite modern musicals.  I still get goosebumps when the priest gives the symbolic candlesticks to Valjean or during the wrenching "Bring Him Home".  And who can keep a dry eye with lyrics such as "to love another person is to see the face of God"?

Thank you to Peoria Players, Connie Sinn, and the remarkable cast for such a wonderful opener.  I hope that the rest of the 95th season will be half as good.

Les Miserables continues through September 15th at the theater in Lakeview Park.
Sellouts are likely so get your tickets ASAP! 
The box office number is 309-688-4473.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Peoria Civic Center Theater - 2013 - 2014 Season

CHICAGO –September 24th & 25th, 2013 - 7:30pm both nights

MEMPHIS – October 26th,2013 - 3pm and 7:30pm both nights

MAMMA MIA –December 3rd& 4th, 2013 – 7:30pm both nights

MILLIONDOLLAR QUARTET – January 7th & 8th, 2014 – 7:00pm both nights

FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL – February 17th, 18th & 19th, 2014 – 7:30pm all nights

ADDAMS FAMILY – May 5th & 6th, 2014 – 7:30pm both nights


ELF THE MUSICAL- November 5th & 6th – 7:30pm both nights

BLUE MAN GROUP – April 9th & 10th,2014 – 7:30pm both nights


Saturday, February 16, 2013

February Poetry Corner

The Butterfly upon the Sky
                   - Emily Dickinson

The Butterfly upon the Sky,
That doesn't know its Name
And hasn't any tax to pay
And hasn't any Home
Is just as high as you and I,
And higher, I believe,
So soar away and never sigh
And that's the way to grieve —


Friday, February 1, 2013

January Poetry Corner

"One Today"

              - Richard Blanco

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper -- bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives -- to teach geometry, or ring up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind -- our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across cafe tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me -- in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always -- home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country -- all of us --
facing the stars
hope -- a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it -- together

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013-14 Corn Stock Winter Playhouse Season

The 2013-14 Winter Playhouse Season has been announced!

Evil Dead: The Musical
Directed by Ingrid Peelle
Oct. 4,5,11,12,13th, 2013

The Graduate
Directed by Chip Joyce
Nov. 1,2,8,9,10, 2013

Relatively Speaking (A Weekend of One Acts)
Directed by Blake Stubbs, Leaann Liesse, and Trevor Neff, Producer Sean Howell
Nov. 21-24th, 2013

A Piece of My Heart
Directed by Amy Williams
January 17,18,24,25,26, 2014

Directed by Charlie Brown
Feb. 14, 15, 21,22,23, 2014

Superior Donuts
Directed by Alex Larson
March 14,15,21,22,23, 2014