I realized it was not going to be an ordinary show right away. As the lights dimmed, the accompanist for this non-musical production attempted to play her electronic keyboard, but it would not produce a single note. After a couple more attempts, a stagehand walked out and started pulling several times on a small-engine pull cord – a.k.a. a chainsaw. That led to a sputtering engine that evidently started the keyboard … thus allowing the pianist to play the opening theme song to a 20th Century Fox film. All this set the appropriate tone for the rest of the Richmond Hill Players' latest and incredibly silly production: an adaptation of Molière's Scapin.

You may think a teenage dramedy that confronts complex social issues such as homophobia, abortion, teacher/student affairs, and other unspoken issues could be a seriously dry, heavy lump that leaves an audience more burdened than amused. Yet I’ve always loved the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club and how it comedically compartmentalizes its stereotypical high school students into the micro-environment of Saturday detention, forcing them to face who they are and where they fit in their high-school hierarchy. So it was consequently interesting to sit in on the September 25 technical rehearsal of the Playcrafters Barn Theatre’s newest, and quite admirable, Barn Owl Series production Speech & Debate.

These days, one could rent just about anything when producing a theatrical production. Need a backdrop? Rent. Costumes? Rent. Props? Rent. Wigs? Rent. Lighting? Rent. The entire set? Rent. You can even rent the whole orchestra by licensing the use of a pre-recorded soundtrack. And there's nothing wrong with taking the rental path. I mean, why reinvent the wheel?! But that's why Quad City Music Guild’s latest – and determinedly non-rented – production of Shrek: The Musical is so ogre-ly impressive.

What are guys supposed to do when they lose their jobs because the local mill is closing? It’s bad enough to be unemployed, but with nothing on the horizon except low-level work, a man can feel like he's nothing but an emasculated scrap of crap. If you're unlucky enough to be one of a ragtag group of jobless and desperate dudes, you do the obvious … and become a male stripper.

Every summer, the Quad Cities is blessed with an extensive live-theatre scene, and the months are crowded with show after show. Many of them are epic or extravagant productions such as Mame, The Marriage of Figaro, Beauty & the Beast, The Bridges of Madison Country, The Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ Superstar and those are just examples from the first half of June.

But then there are the smaller, more intimate ones. Presentations of works that you’ve maybe never heard of. Things that sound interesting but are overshadowed by bigger, more well-known titles. Shows such as the Black Box Theatre’s musical offering Baby – which may well prove to be the sweetest, most heartfelt, and most authentic musical you’ll see all season long.

My kids grew up on Disney's Beauty & the Beast. I've seen the animated movies and TV specials. I've tripped over toys. I have faded photos of my daughter dressed in a brilliant ballroom gown. I've listened to Alan Menken’s soundtrack (with lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman) hundreds of times, seen the story performed on ice, and watched the live-action film earlier this year. But I’d never seen the Broadway-musical adaptation, and now that the Timber Lake Playhouse has opened its extravagant version of this classic tale, I can cross the live version off of my theatrical bucket list, too.

Who knew that something as benign as bingo could be a cutthroat, super-competitive soap opera, complete with callers enjoying something extra for announcing the right bingo balls, zany rituals performed over cards, rice-cereal-treat bribes, and WWE-style heels and heroes? It just goes to show that the competitiveness of the human experience filters even into the most unlikely and folksy slices of Americana, as demonstrated in Bingo! The Winning Musical, the kooky musical offering at Moline's Playcrafters Barn Theatre.

With the popularity of television series such as Downton Abbey and The Crown, contemporary audiences have become intrigued by, even addicted to, European aristocracy. I can’t help but think that in comparison to the many works of William Shakespeare, our obsession with binge-worthy TV must be like attending live theatre over 400 years ago. Take, for example, the twisted path of dysfunction, poor leadership, and random acts of stupidity as illustrated in Shakespeare’s tug-of-war tale King John.

Does sex sell? That question is dissected by every Marketing 101 class every semester on virtually every college campus. Professors will have students review magazine ads, Web-site pop-ups, and television commercials. They study the branding of perfume, women's-underwear slogans, and the sensuality of eating a luscious cheeseburger. I think most can agree that sex does sell. And if theatre is any indication, the older the targeted market, the better it sells! Just check out the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's Sex Please, We're 60, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Clue: The Musical is the latest production to open in this wonderfully intimate venue in downtown Moline, and speaking candidly, I was blown away by the packed house as audience members loudly chattered away before the opening curtain. It was as if they all had been cooped up in their homes for the last 24 hours, but needed to venture out just to see a classic board game brought to life via a Broadway-esque style musical.

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