Kenzie’s Local Theatre Roundup: September and October

From horrors and thrillers to the 1904 World’s Fair; a lot is happening around Peoria theatre! I interviewed people in all aspects of the upcoming shows-actors, crew, and a director. I asked each of the four people to describe their show in 5 words, their responses are in the word cloud above.

Peoria Players opened their 104th season with Little Shop of Horrors, a horror/comedy written by Howard Ashman. Seymour, a scrawny, nerdy experimental botanist, breeds a brand-new kind of plant. He names it for his co-worker and crush: Audrey II is born. Talking plants and a little bit of blood spirals into horrors beyond Seymour’s imagination; can he keep up with his growing plant?

This show ran September 9-11, 15-18. And it starred our very own Mrs. Nehls! She agreed to answer a couple questions about the show for me! This was her first time back on stage in 9 years, after appearing as Evilene in The Wiz at Cornstock, under the tent.

Q: What made you decide to audition?

Mrs. Nehls: “It’s one of my favorite musicals. I don’t want to say I couldn’t control myself, but I couldn’t! And I love Bryan [Blanks, the director], so when he asked if I would audition, I went for it!”

Q: What is it like doing your first show in 9 years?

Mrs. Nehls: “I’m anxious all the time!… and I can’t connect and yell with my students like usual. Every night I go, “oh god did I talk too much today?”

Q: What is your favorite part of the show onstage?

Mrs. Nehls: “Oh ‘Suddenly Seymour’ – I like doing it with Derek, I’ve known him for forever, so I really trust him to do whatever to make it awesome!

Q: Favorite part of the show offstage?

Mrs. Nehls: “Walking past the orchestra every night. We have a live orchestra which is rare to see these days. They sound amazing! We used to just have these recordings that you can speed up or slow down. They definitely aren’t the same.”

Congrats to Mrs. Nehls and the cast of Little Shop for an amazing run!

The summer of 1903 brings much excitement to the Smith family as everyone is preparing for the 1904 World’s Fair. Meet Me in St. Louis is a fun show about the lives of the well-off Smith family, including Esther, who has fallen for the new kid next door, John. But when her father gets transferred to a nice position in New York, the whole family will have to leave before the World’s Fair in the summer. What will become of Esther and John? You’ll have to stop by the Cornstock Winter Lab and see the Cornstock for Kids’ production of Meet Me in St. Louis! I spoke with Laynie Zika, an ensemble member and dance captain in the show.

Q: What are your favorite moments on stage?

Laynie: “Some of my favorite moments onstage are interacting with castmates onstage during our dances. This show has a lot of line dancing, as well as partner dancing, which are both super interactive and entertaining. “

Q: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Laynie: “For all the shows I am in, I make a playlist that gets me into the “vibe” over the span of rehearsals. Then I listen to it while I’m doing my hair and makeup.

Q: Why should people come see Meet Me in St. Louis?

Laynie: Meet Me in St. Louis is going to be a show for all ages. With fun, unique dancing to beautiful, lively music – you won’t want to miss this classic show.

The show ran September 30- October 8.

After a car crash, successful author Paul Sheldon is rescued by “number one fan”, Annie Wilkes. While Paul is healing, Annie finishes his latest book, only to find out he’s killed off her favorite character, Misery Chastain. Annie holds Paul captive and forces him to write another Misery novel. Paul learns quickly that he needs to write as if his life depended on it – because it does. Stephen King’s Misery is adapted for the stage. I interviewed director Amy DeTrempe Williams.

Q: Why did you want to direct Misery?

Amy: “I loved the book by Stephen King. The characters are so fascinating and even though I knew bringing this production to life would be a challenge, I needed to see it performed on stage as soon as I read the script. It is highly emotional, and these are not easy roles for actors.”

Q: I saw the video of you spinning on the set – 1. That is so cool! 2. I’m curious; are you only going to utilize [the wheel], or will the set spill off of that?

Amy: “Every scene of the show will take place on the revolve, except one… the technical aspects of this show are very intense. The tech team has to learn blocking and choreography just as much as the actors on this one.”

Q: What do you like about directing versus doing hair and makeup?

Amy: “Directing is a wonderfully creative process from reading the script and visualizing it taking place on the stage with all the elements from actors, their costumes, hair, makeup, as well as my vision of the set, props, lighting, music – everything that goes into a production. With hair and makeup, I’m limited to how the character appears on the stage based on what the director’s vision is, which can be fun too. Especially when the characters are unique and specialty makeup is involved.”

Misery, directed by the incredible Amy DeTrempe-Williams will be playing at Peoria Players October 7-9, and 13-16.

Join me next time for the November/December local theatre round up!