This 2005 show set in Minnesota in the mid-'60s, has inspired such a ravenous fandom that there are now seven related musicals in this series. The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse has produced some of them – one just this spring. Yet somehow, I'd so far escaped these ladies' clutches. I'm here to tell you I was clutched, but good, at Thursday's opening-night performance at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre.

Even within the subset of meritorious solo or duo shows, author Lauren Gunderson's I & You is a particularly outstanding and imaginative two-person play unlike any I've seen in the Quad Cities, and one to which the Black Box Theatre did full justice. I attended opening night as one member of an equally appreciative crowd.

The summer is obviously flying by, as the final show of the Mississippi Bend Players' season – Nilaja Sun's No Child … – just opened at Augustana College's Brunner Theatre. I was there for Thursday's opening night; there are only three performances left, and you have got to see it. This show’s structure is unusual, the topic relatable, and the performance exceptional.

It was great to be back at the Timber Lake Playhouse, a capacious space that somehow still has a cozy ambiance.

What would summer in Iowa be without fireworks? And small-town Independence Day celebrations? Ice cream? A marching band? A charming con man? Yep – for me, it's just not summer without The Music Man. This 1957 work by Iowan Meredith Willson (with Franklin Lacey's assist on the story) is my favorite musical. I've seen more productions of it than any other show, and felt lucky to review Countryside Community Theatre's opening-night performance.

We don't just hear about the two Broadway ladies, both of whose careers took off in the 1930s and spanned decades; we also hear about Shelley Cooper's theatrical career. After reading her credits in the program bio, I can say that Cooper is a bona fide musical-theatre luminary herself.

Whether you are shy about trying Shakespeare or are a Bard aficionado, has Genesius Guild got a show for you! The first production of their shortened season, Measure for Measure (abridged), is very funny, well acted, deftly staged, easy to follow, and – so important for an outdoor venue in summer – short.

Drama is conflict, and the Black Box Theatre's current production, titled Hate Mail, reveals its conflict within the first two minutes. As the battle slowly escalated, I wondered how playwrights Bill Corbett and Kira Obolensky could sustain the animosity and keep it building for an entire play. How dark could it get and

The Showboat's former producing artistic director Matthew Teague Miller directed Always ... Patsy Cline, while Kory Danielson is music director and conductor, also playing piano during the performances. Much thought and work no doubt went into staging this production, but Miller, Danielson, and their crew make it seem like it came together spontaneously and organically.

In the longstanding tradition of “show, don't tell,” a story needs a setting or theme to carry it. Star Trek wasn't really about space; Field of Dreams wasn't really about baseball. Stories are about people, memories, and emotions. And although the actors now performing at the Black Box Theatre talk for 90 minutes about pantsuits, gowns, and boots, Love, Loss, & What I Wore isn't really about clothing.