Everybody wants to see that hot, innovative musical. You know the one. It’s cool and diverse, sexy, sacred to its fans, and combines hip music and lyrics with some phenomenal choreography. The one in which a man and woman fall into a forbidden love that takes place amidst a bloody war between rival armies with a deadly duel as part of its climax. C’mon, you know the show I'm taking about, right?

No, not Hamilton. Sheesh.

Emily Gulden, Sarah Goodall, Anna Marie Myatt, Becca Brazel, Don Denton, Shelley Walljasper, Keenan Odenkirk, Max Robnett, and J.J. Johnson in Zombie Prom

I mean no offense, but I just have to get this off my chest: Zombie Prom – the first production in the inaugural season of new theatre company the Mississippi Bend Players, directed by Broadway veteran Philip Wm. McKinley – is dumb. There, I said it. I mean, we're talking about a kitschy, '50s-era musical comedy in which a pubescent zombie goes to a high-school prom, for God's sake.

But before QC theatre elites call for my head, hear me out, because the gift of having a talent such as McKinley helm this type of production is that he knows how to create a show boasting a complete vision, and he also utilizes top-level talent to take a silly script and turn it into something exceptionally entertaining.

It's opening night, and it's intermission at the QC Theatre Workshop. I wander out into the warm evening for some fresh air, wondering what, exactly, I'm witnessing. I mean, it doesn't really fit into any genre or theatrical category I can recall previously seeing. And yet, it's not only entertaining; it's exciting. At times, I feel as if I'm watching a silent movie in a nickelodeon. No, it's more like a sketch comedy. Wait: It's really a fable or children's story. A-ha!

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!!!

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?!?

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.

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

What really goes on in a beauty salon? As someone follicly challenged, I have wondered what happens behind all the glamour posters, hair products, and Hollywood-scandal magazines: Certainly there's more than stereotypical gossip between the customers and their stylists – right? Well, the truth is out. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre production of Steel Magnolias lifts the veil and exposes the beauty-shop mystique, and at least in this particular shop, Southern ladies come to share their fears, secrets, joys, and love with their very best friends – all while getting the perfect shampoos, colorings, and styles.

Kevin Pieper and Tom Naab in A Christmas Carol

I love the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol. You know: The one about Ebenezer Scrooge – that cantankerous old skinflint who defined the term “hostile workplace” by treating his lone employee (and everyone else, for that matter) like the dirt beneath his well-worn shoe? To save his soul, the spirit world sends three ghosts on Christmas Eve who unveil aspects of Scrooge’s life, and the lives of those around him, that facilitate a much-needed change in his withered, cold heart. Because of this experience, he transforms into a man of enlightenment and generosity, helping his community and those closest to him.

The Holly Jolly Christmas ensemble

Everyone loves “holiday fluff,” right? You know – that oddly concocted mixture that your crazy aunt brings for the holidays each year combining Cool Whip, pistachio pudding, marshmallows, crushed pineapple, and walnuts (or not), with cherries on top? Admit it. It’s the perfect little taste of sweetness on a plate otherwise full of more savory dishes.

The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse is now serving its own version of holiday fluff. No, not on the buffet menu, but rather in the form of its musical Holly Jolly Christmas, which isn't really a musical so much as a musical revue. There's no real story or character development. You won’t see the duality of man in an Ebenezer Scrooge figure or an “If only I would have …” scenario played out by a George Bailey type. In fact, you won’t see anything remotely resembling a plot. What you will find is a Branson-style revue that utilizes the talents of an extremely gifted cast in spite of Ty Stover's exceptionally weak script.

Nicholas Munson, Don Abbott, Dion Stover, Vince Solis, Sara Tubbs, and Becca Meumann-Johnson in The Rocky Horror Show

In an October filled with local theatre that includes the likes of Shakespeare, Sam Shepard, and Flowers for Algernon, I was shivering with anticipation: What show would I be assigned this month? Could I handle the depth and power of a classic? Finally, the e-mail came, and I was given the sweetly daunting task of examining one of the most astounding, bucket-list theatrical works I could ever review. Yes! Yes!! YES!!! Thank the theatre gods! I could finally revisit my late teens to dissect the '70s cult classic The Rocky Horror Show!

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