Subscribe to our Newsletter

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Enter Your Email Below
Sound of Music

The Sound of Music
Peoria Players Theatre
December 5-7 & 10-14

By Stan Strickler

Having me review The Sound of Music is a bit like asking a vegan to review the most popular steakhouse in town. While it is a much beloved musical, to me it seems dated and tired and much too sweet. While the show is based on real life people, the characters seem more like caricatures than real life people and so much of their changes in attitude seem unmotivated and much too quick. But I suppose the fact that, for example, Captain von Trapp changes from a stern disciplinarian to a music loving kindly father in the course of one song is a convention of older musical theater.

The story revolves around the widowed Captain von Trapp , the father of seven children and a postulant in the nearby abbey, Maria, who is assigned to be the governess for the children. Maria who is more in love with the mountains than with the strictness of convent life goes rather unwilliningly to the family and immediately connects with the children bringing music back into their lives. Eventually she and the Captain fall in love. Of course complications ensue as the Captain is ordered to serve in the German Navy and swear allegiance to the Nazi Party. Eventually the family escapes by climbing the nearby mountain and getting to safety in Switzerland.

As Maria, Dedra Kaiser brings a sweet voice and perkiness to the role of Maria. She sings beautifully and moves across the stage well, and she connects well with the children most of whom are double cast. Speaking of the children, the cast I saw on opening night were delightful and all had a nice stage presence. Pauline Parkhurst as the eldest Liesl brought a sweetness to her role and sings well. As her love interest Andrew Harlan has a nice voice and dances well in his musical duet with Liesl. As the Mother Abbess Anita Rowden has a powerful voice and does well in the show stopping “Climb Every Mountain.”

As a counter balance to all the sweetness Bryan Blanks as Max Detweiler and Tonya Davis as Elsa bring some notes of realism to the play. They both play their parts well and sing well too. I especially enjoyed their scenes since they seem the most realistic characters in the play. He is a self-serving individual who doesn’t care who he is loyal to and she is a wealthy woman who is in love with the Captain. She does well exhibiting jealousy toward Maria whom she considers a rival and both bring some needed comedy and tension to the musical.

As Captain von Trapp Bruce Colligan hardly seems to connect with Maria whom he supposedly loves and his performance seems one note. He has a wonderful singing voice, and perhaps his acting suffers from the way the part is written since he seems to change opinions in mid-song several times in the play. Also rather troubling in the cast was Julie Simmons as Sister Berthe. While she is a comic element in the show she seems a little over the top in presenting what almost becomes a caricature of the rather strict but scatterbrained nun. As the Admiral Greg Blume seems hardly threatening and therefore offers no foil for the main characters to fear.

Director Mary Ellen Ulrich has assembled a capable cast with good voices and nice stage presence, but sometimes it seems as if everything is much the same. Line the actors up downstage and have them sing. And after a while it becomes a little monotonous. The choreography by Jimmy Ulrich was serviceable if a little clunky in parts. Ashlie Schlatweiler, the music director did a very nice job in bringing the very familiar songs to life and all in all the singing was really outstanding. My biggest complaint about this production is that it has prerecorded music instead of a live orchestra, and it sounds rather fake and sometimes is too loud, drowning out the singers. Also there were a few minor glitches in set changes in the opening night which hopefully will be rectified as the run progresses. The biggest problem with that is that it took far too long between the final number and the curtain call so that the audience sat in a darkened theater wondering what to do.

The Sound of Music continues on Wednesday 12/10 with $15 tickets for adults and $12 for students aged 18 & under and  Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm plus a Saturday & Sunday matinee at 2 pm.  Ticket availability is limited: a holdover performance has been added on Sunday, December 14 beginning at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $18 for the adults and $12 for students aged 18 and under and are available at the Peoria Players box office, by calling 309688-4473 or online at

Posted December 8, 2014


When You Comin Back, Red Ryder

When You Comin Back, Red Ryder?
Illinois Central College Theatre Program
November 14-16 & 18-23

By Erika Evans

When you hear the title When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? you may not know what to expect, but you know it will be out of the ordinary. Illinois Central College’s production does exactly that, drawing the audience into a world where the sixties are ending, and a myriad of styles and voices come together. The tale follows eight people who are all brought into each other’s lives by one common place, the run-down diner that they all happen to be in when terrifying circumstances force them to get to know each other very quickly.

Before the play even begins the smell of food greets the audience as they make their way to their seats. It instantly transports you to a greasy diner, the sort that you stop at on your way to another place, nice enough, but easily forgotten. The scene is laid out with two red booths on either side of the stage, a few grey chairs and tables that hold the salt and pepper as well as the napkins, and of course the main counter. It is adorned with food, rags, cups, and other items. Through the tiny, classic window looking into the grill part of the diner, slightly rusty pans can be seen on the wall, adding even more character to the classic diner image that the set radiates.

When You Comin Back, Red Ryder is the story of eight people, two of which work at the diner, one who owns the diner, and those who stop in that day for a meal. Unfortunately two people who stop in are not just after a meal, but some money as well. While the customers and employees are held at gun point by a desperate man, the tension builds until the deep secrets and lives of those in danger are revealed. The sense of irrevocability, of words and actions, fills the play.

The cast provided the awkward chemistry that the situation called for, pulling together at times and withdrawing when needed. Stephen (Nick McCumber) gave a convincing performance as the angry trapped teenager that insists people call him “Red”. Angel (Hannah Bruce) was the sweet and innocent friend and coworker of Stephen, who made the audience like her instantly. Lyle (Ryan Groves), the owner of the gas station across the street shows both vulnerability and bravery in his performance. Richard (Nathan Apodaca) depicts the uptight customer and husband well. Clarisse (Hannah Gidcumb), his wife, played the suppressed wife who pulls through to show her true and proud self. Clark (Jake Sleva) appears briefly as the angry and disgust inducing owner of the diner who is the perfect image of a bad boss. Cheryl (Rebekah Waters) plays the sweet yet fearful girl thrown into a terrifying situation. Teddy (Tannen Skriver) gives an excellent performance as a disturbed man that inspires great fear; he kept the energy up the whole time and kept the performance running smoothly.

The crew did very well, with spot on lighting and set up. The lighting was very dramatic and well timed, adding great emotion to already tension filled moments. While there were some dialogue issues, the overall performance was engaging and thought provoking.

When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? continues at Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center Studio Theatre November 18-23 with performances Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $7 for the general public and $5 for students and senior citizens. To purchase or for more information, call (309) 694-5136 or visit

Posted November 18, 2014


<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 18