Will it Play in Peoria?
This famous question originated during Peoria's exciting vaudeville days during the 1920s. After a new live act or stage show was produced, it was soon booked into a Peoria theater to test audience reaction to the show. If the show did not receive a strong positive approval, one of two things could happen: the production was rewritten, recast, or otherwise improved, or it was canceled. Because Peoria was viewed as the "typical" American town, if a show could achieve the approval of the Peoria audience, it would be successful anywhere in the country.
The phrase came back into circulation when a Nixon administration political advisor used it while talking about campaigning in the Midwest. Peoria was still seen as a model of the norm in the country, and the President could use the citizens of Peoria to gauge his approval.
In the past 50 years, Peoria has garnered the "All-American City" award three times. As national test marketers have found, Peoria is a microcosm of America herself. To "Play in Peoria" is not only an old term from vaudeville, but a catch phrase used today to measure the thoughts and habits of the typical American.