Having been a librarian at elementary and middle schools, one might think my most challenging students were the middle-schoolers. Not so! My fears arose before visits from the littler kids, as I, alone, would have to keep them quiet and attentive for 40 minutes. (Ever herded kittens?) So when I attended April 20's Big Nate: The Musical at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse and saw school buses unloading first- and second-graders, kindergarteners, and preschoolers, I thought, “This will be interesting!” – especially since the Big Nate books are for readers 8 to 12 years old. I wondered if the story would hold the attention of this young an audience … and happily, the answer was “Yes!”

Some spiritual teachings hold the heart as the organ of transformation, arguing that it's through the heart that we connect with the source of life that speaks to us, that guides us, and through which we're opened to the richness of being. When we give our hearts to others through acts of love, we are transformed. But what of the act of literally giving one’s heart to another through a heart transplant? Are there consequences for those involved? How does this generous act of giving play out in a story of grieving and loss? Does it add more meaning to the life of the one who has passed?

As the clock approached 7:30 p.m. on a refreshingly cool and clear mid-April Saturday, the old barn beckoned like a silent sentinel as my wife and I wove our way up the meandering hill. While approaching the main entrance, the imposing presence at the ticket window asked quietly, eerily, if we had reservations. We said we did, and he motioned for us to climb the stairs leading us to the loft. I swallowed hard and took my time, stretching out each step knowing that I was ascending ever closer into the darkness, the unknown, and into a night of murder. Bwa-a-a-a-h Ha-a-a-a-ha-a-a-a-ha-a-a-a-a-a!!!

In the Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse’s current, topnotch production of The Music Man, the signature image is actually an image in motion: actor Don Denton, in his role as Harold Hill, strolling – or more accurately gliding – across the stage.

Updated: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Reviews by Jeff Ashcraft, Patricia Baugh-Riechers, Audra Beals, Dee Canfield, Kim Eastland, Emily Heninger, Heather Herkelman, Paula Jolly, Victoria Navarro, Mike Schulz, Joy Thompson, Oz Torres, Brent Tubbs, Jill (Pearson) Walsh, and Thom White.

When St. Ambrose University senior Sam Jones arrives for our March 30 interview, he enters carrying what he calls his “rehearsal bag” – a backpack emblazoned with the Green Lantern insignia. “I bring it everywhere,” he says, eventually pulling out a stack of reading material currently aiding him in his title role as William Shakespeare’s Richard III. There isn’t a DC Comic in sight.

Checklist for Tuesday night's dress rehearsal of Quad City Music Guild’s springtime production:

Topnotch vocals by an energetic cast. Check!

Snappy doo-wop moves exquisitely choreographed and performed. Check!!

Powerful and tight 10-piece pit ensemble. Check!!!

Foul mouthed, R&B-singing, seven-foot-tall, man-eating houseplant. Check!!!!

Wait … . What?!?

Shakespeare provided us with tales of tragedy, comedy, and history. The Prenzie Players, meanwhile, have been performing Shakespeare’s plays for many years and still exhibit a deep passion for his words and stories, as evidenced by their new production of Coriolanus. I attended the March 23 preview in which the cast and crew delivered an exciting performance, especially in light of one of the actors losing his voice. (More on that later.) Jeremy Mahr directed a talented troupe of performers while his design crew set the tone, with Matt Elliott creating a sparse set suggesting white marble, designer Tyson Danner supplying simple yet stark white lighting, and sound designer Bret Churchill providing ambiance that thrums with tension. It all added up to something cool and edgy.

What do you get when you mix Molière and Agatha Christie with a healthy dose of Garry Marshall? A wacky mystery farce written by perhaps the most prolific playwright of the 20th Century: Neil Simon. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Rumors is Simon’s outlandish play that combines absurd comedy with a whodunit – though it's more of a whathappened – featuring some very sitcom-like characters.

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