Plumb Pavilion venue in Streator for Engle Lane opener

Free children’s production kicks off theater season

Is Marlee Reel excited about co-directing a Community Players of Streator show this weekend at Plumb Pavilion in Streator City Park?

“Just performing again in general is exciting,” the Long Point resident said about Community Players, in partnership with The Dieken Family Foundation, staging “Back in the Act,” the children’s theater musical Friday and Saturday, June 18 and 19.

The COVID-19 shutdown shuttered Engle Lane as well as much of the United States the past year. Yet live theater is back in Streator, with a children’s play kicking off the 2021season.

“Back in the Act” will be something new for the theater troupe — a show in a different venue as well as a musical revue with free admission.

Thirty-five young actors have been rehearsing inside the William C. Schiffbauer Center for the Performing, Community Players’ home. After “Back in the Act” is staged inside the park, Engle Lane performances will return indoors.

The show will feature three original skits as well as music ranging from source material such as “Les Miserables,” “Newsies” and “Dear Evan Hansen.” The skits were written by Gill, including one she penned about 20 years ago as a Quincy University student.

“I’ve never used it anywhere. It’s kind of crazy to see it up onstage,” said Gill, who recently returned to Engle Lane after taking a leave of absence to give birth to a daughter.

Gill has stepped up her writing to complete the two other skits.

“Dialogue has come easily for me. And I enjoy it,” she said.

Sophia Abbott, Streator, will be the revue’s choreographer and Long Point’s Emma Reel will serve as music director. Engle Lane’s children’s production normally is staged every August, just before school begins, yet has been moved up this year.

“We wanted to come back as early as possible. The kids can have as much summer as they can,” Gill said.

Music, comedy and drama will be part of the production. Reel said one of the songs — “Somewhere Out There” from the 1986 Disney film “An American Tail” — reflects some of the loneliness felt during the COVID outbreak.

Working with a large, enthusiastic cast has been enjoyable for the directors.

“The longevity of the theater has a lot to go with it. And kids are needing to come back to it,” Gill said. TickTock and YouTube videos, she added. create enthusiasm among children.

“It’s an outlet and kids learn a lot. There’s a lot of interesting material on social media.”

Gill’s children Evan Lake, 18, and Christian Gill, 15, are in the cast. Evan’s twin brother Robbie, 18, is working backstage. Husband Josh is sound director and does set construction.

Reel’s daughters Melody, 10, and Rylee, 7, are “Back in the Act” cast members. Vice-president of the Engle Lane board of directors, staging “Back in the Act” has been a thrill for her.

“One hundred percent. It’s really nice to be back and see the excitement in the kids’ faces,” Reel said.

Kids ready to take Engle Lane stage

Cast members for back in the act, Community Players of Streator’s children’s theater production are, listed alphabetically:

Lily Austin, Brittan Bradley, Tori Campbell, Emilie Castaneda, Eugenia Craig, Elizabeth Davis, Emmalyn Davis, Payton Davis, Sadie Davis, Michaela Flashing, Christian Gill, Rheagan Goluba, Abigail Granados, Olivia Granados, Gretchen Kaschke, Abigail Kimber, Jordan Kirkman, Evan Lake, Devin Lawton. Lily Michael Brianna Monaghan, Katie Monaghan, Myleigh Muhlstadt, Ted Neuman, Joey Pavlick, Megan Pavlick, Evelyn Penfield, Elizabeth Reel, Melody Reel, Rylee Reel, Gage Richey, Skyleigh Speirer, Connor Treest, Tripp Tomaseski, Mia Welch.

“Back in the Act,” a Community Players of Streator children’s theater production, will be staged 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 18 and 19, at Plumb Pavilion in Streator City Park. Admission will be free.