A Message of Strength

He’s best known for fronting the Funk Yard, but the multi-talented soul man Dexter O’Neal is unafraid to dive into new artistic territory. This fall, he’ll realize the next step of a lifelong musical journey with the Peoria premiere of Strength of This Nation, a new musical for which he provided the score.

A coming-of-age story about four girls in a performing arts high school, Strength teams O’Neal with an old friend, L.A. playwright and author Timothy Allen Smith. “We met 25 years ago,” he explains. “We were both working for State Farm. I was struggling with my last record deal, he was an aspiring poet, and we connected.”

Like their friendship, the show has been long in the works: “I wrote the first song for it 10 years ago,” O’Neal recounts. “It has been picked up and dropped probably three different times.” But after Smith found success with Love Jones the Musical, his 2016 adaptation of the cult classic film, the money was finally there to bring it to fruition.

Billed as “raucous, fun and fast-paced,” Strength is geared for the whole family, and O’Neal is excited for the Peoria shows—his first opportunity to watch his music come to life on stage. More than that, he and Smith hope their message of female empowerment will stir the dreams of the next generation.

“We’re both fathers of daughters,” O’Neal says. “This was about what we want [for them]… how we want them to be inspired.”

A traveling cast and crew bring two performances of Strength of This Nation to the Peoria Civic Center, October 28-29, 2017. For ticket information, visit peoriaciviccenter.com. a&s