Illinois Central College offers two great ways to enjoy the arts in October: the Prairie Wind Ensemble and the theatre’s production of The Wonder Years.

The Prairie Wind Ensemble opens another exciting concert season October 16 at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center. Musical selections have been chosen to delight audiences and to challenge the ensemble’s talented members. The opening concert features a wide variety of pieces.

“The Florentiner” is a European march that takes the form of a tone-poem. Although Julius Fucik is best known for his “Entry of the Gladiators March,” also known by circus audiences as “Thunder and Blazes,” his “Florentiner” has become a significant march in wind literature across the world.

“Cloudburst” is another outstanding, imaginative work by Eric Whitacre. The audience will experience a thunderstorm and even participate in making some of the sounds that create this marvelous soundscape.

The October concert includes a composition by Prairie Wind Ensemble conductor Robert Sheldon entitled “Metroplex—Three Postcards from Manhattan.” He gave the following description: “A musical portrait of Manhattan’s cityscape, ‘Metroplex’ opens with a vision of the New York skyline, tall buildings, and concrete canyons. This leads to an urban jazz scene in one of Harlem’s clubs. Finally, the music takes us on a wild taxi ride through the heavy traffic of this incredible city. The skyline is seen once more as we leave Manhattan, hopefully to return again soon.”

As in the past, the Prairie Wind Ensemble features several members as guest performers. Phil Lancaster, PWE member for 21 years, will be guest soloist in “Concerto No. 1 for Horn” by Richard Strauss. Music educator David Stewart conducts Frank Ticheli’s setting of the American classic “Shenandoah.”

Another featured work, “Fandango,” is a delightful toe-tapper that uses some Spanish themes to create this crowd-pleasing dance for winds and percussion. “Lincolnshire Posy” is one of the most cherished compositions in the modern day wind literature. “Culloden” by Julie Giroux is the final movement of a symphony she’s written that includes a large variety of Scottish folk songs. Her powerful setting of these tunes provides a stirring conclusion to the concert.

The Illinois Central College Theatre Program and director Robin Berkley are thrilled to open the 2005-2006 season September 30 with The Wonder Years, a rollicking, music-filled, nostalgic look at the Baby Boomer generation. The musical glides through the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s with songs, dance, and dialogue that’s sure to take you back to a different time: a time when growing up meant Mickey Mouse Club, hula hoops, peace signs, and polyester—a time when TV was born and would help define the generation we know as the Baby Boomers.

The Wonder Years was written in the early 1990s by a talented group of musicians and writers who themselves are Boomers and wanted to create a musical that defined the life of a Boomer growing up, coming of age, and moving into adulthood: David Levy wrote the music and lyrics, and Levy developed the book with Steve Liebman, David Holdgrive, and Terry LaBolt.

The Wonder Years has been extremely well received by audiences across the country. After opening on the West Coast, the show had a successful extended run off Broadway and won numerous awards including the Dramalogue Award for Best Musical.

The ICC production premieres this show in central Illinois. The cast of three men and three women includes ICC theatre students Grace Creasy, Dirkson Kai Pence, Ryan Simpson, Abby Ten Haken, Greg Foster, and Malinda Zimmerman. Production staff includes Randy Douglas, music director and piano lead; Jeremy Clark, drums; Jennifer Platt, electronic keyboard; and Alan Walker, choreography.

The Prairie Wind Ensemble performs at 2:30 p.m., October 16, at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center in East Peoria. The Wonder Years runs at 7:30 p.m., September 30, October 1, 7, and 8, and at 2:30 p.m., October 2 and 9. Tickets for both events cost $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 694-5136. AA!