First United Methodist Church will be celebrating “A Night of Broadway” on Sunday evening, July 21, with famed television, screen and Broadway star, Peter Palmer.

Palmer started his career in singing while playing for the University of Illinois football team that earned the title of Big Ten champions in 1951 and 1953 and Rose Bowl champions in 1952. He sang the national anthem before every home game in full uniform and then played with the team as a tackle on the squad.

After his college career, he joined the Army and entered the “All Army Entertainment Contest,” which he won. As a result of the competition, he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, where the producers of the Broadway musical “Li’l Abner” saw him and casted him as the lead role in 1956. 

He played the same role in the movie version of the musical in 1958.

He continued to have a storied career on Broadway throughout the next 40 years appearing as Curly in the 20th revival of “Oklahoma!” on Broadway, and appearing with Carol Channing in the musical “Lorelei.”

His small screen career gave him appearances on the television shows “MASH,” “Kallikaks,” “Stryker,” alongside Burt Reynolds, “The Legend of Custer,” “Dallas,” “Rockford Files,” “This is Your Life,” “Fantasy Island,” “Three’s Company” and “Charlie’s Angels."

After his second wife and career partner of 45 years, Aniko Farrell, passed away in 2011, Palmer retired to Shelbyville.

The Chautauqua concert will be a benefit concert raising funds to support the Wesley Academy of Music. The Wesley Academy of Music provides free music lessons to school-aged students in Frankfort and Franklin County who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs at their schools.

Through the first two years of the mission, the academy has served 1,224 private music lessons to more than 60 students in the Frankfort Independent and Franklin County Public School systems.

The concert is free and open to the public, but a love offering will be taken to benefit the students of the Wesley Academy of Music. A pre-concert lecture with Peter Palmer will be held at 5 p.m. in Asbury Hall with the concert portion beginning at 6 p.m. in the same location.  First United Methodist is located at 211 Washington St. across from the Paul Sawyier Public Library.

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