It was June 26, 2019, in Peoria, Illinois. William Hawley Smith hosted a gathering of 35 people at his home on Knoxville Avenue to discuss the possibility of starting a theater company.
One hundred years later, Peoria Players Theatre, the oldest continuously running community theater in the state, is wrapping up its historic season with “Centennial Celebration Revue” on Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, 9.
Pieces of the theater’s history, starting at the beginning on Knoxville Avenue, will be creatively retold through stories, music and dance.
Directed by Jeremy Kelly and written by Erin Miller, the revue will cover major events from 1919 to 2019 and will feature songs from musicals that represent each decade, such as South Pacific for the 1940s, Grease for the 1950s, Hairspray for the 1960s and Footloose for the 1980s, as a few examples.
“The goal is for this production to be both enlightening and entertaining,” said show writer and Peoria Players board member Erin Miller. “I relied heavily on our 100th anniversary history book, written by Jim Wilhelm, Larry Betzelberger, and Pat and Bruce White and published last year. I can’t begin to say how much I learned about the theater’s history while reading that book and writing this show. It was a fascinating century of highs and lows for the theater.”
The cast of the revue features strong performers who are all veterans of the Peoria Players stage: Cheri Beever, Steve Bortolotti, Bruce Colligan, Lauren Deppe, Beth Ann Evers, Jarod Hazzard, Mary Irby-Moore, Jeremy Kelly, Tyler Smith and Mary Rose Williams. The show also features a talented group of youth performers from the Peoria Area Performing Arts Studio (PAPAS).
Audiences can expect show-stopping solos as well as energetic group numbers.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. June 8 and 2 p.m. June 9. Tickets are on sale now at peoriaplayers.org/tickets, by calling 688-4473 or at the box office, 4300 N. University St. in Peoria. They are $15 for youth ages 20 and younger and $20 for adults.
“This is a fitting way to close our 100th season, with blockbusters from some of the most iconic shows, performed by some of the most talented local performers,” said director Jeremy Kelly. “We are excited to retell our history and motivate everyone to help Peoria Players reach another 100 years of continuous performances.”