Last month, I enjoyed the Apollo Professional Theatre performance of My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra—not once, but twice—during its run here in Peoria. Having been a fan of Sinatra for years—even having seen him in person once—I anticipated how Andy Driscoll and his group of professionals would pay tribute to this icon. Not only were the out-of-town performers top professionals in their field, local performers complemented this first-class production.

The Apollo stage was transformed into a classy nightclub, and short of having our own drinks in hand, we were there, as each of the unforgettable songs of Sinatra took us through the years. Sinatra would have been proud. One sign of a performer’s greatness is the timelessness of his work. There were several generations in the audience—my 16-year-old daughter included—who knew and sang along with those classics first made popular long before she was born. The audience smiled, laughed, hummed, sang, and even shed a tear or two as My Way warmed our hearts.

Yes, 2002 was a very good year for the arts and entertainment in Peoria. The Apollo Professional Theatre opened under the artistic and managing direction of Peoria native and Broadway performer Andrew Driscoll. The Peoria International Film Group, organized in 2001, attracted more foreign, independent, and classic theater buffs as the group moved to Peoria Players Theater. The Peoria Civic Center and its Broadway Theatre Series brought us Annie Get Your Gun, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon; Opera Illinois brought us Madame Butterfly; and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra brought in renowned performers as special guests.

Community groups such as Peoria Players, Corn Stock Theatre, Eastlight Theatre, Peoria Ballet, Illinois Ballet, Morton Area Players, and Conklin’s Barn II performed familiar favorites. Lakeview Museum proposed a move and expansion to downtown Peoria, and WTVP began construction on new studios. The Peoria Art Guild and Contemporary Art Center continued to host exciting exhibits. The Peoria Fine Arts Fair and CILCO Summer Serenades drew record attendees.

Illinois Central College Performing Arts Subscription Series and Bradley University’s theater performances were sell-outs. Young people showed their talents at the Arts in Education Spring Celebration, and the annual Young Artists Competition continued for its 48th year. Even Ray Charles came to town for the annual Black and White Gala.

We are blessed in central Illinois. Still humming the unforgettable tunes of Sinatra, “The Best is Yet to Come,” drifts through my mind… AA!