The roots of the play The 39 Steps were in a 1915 magazine serial by Scottish novelist John Buchan, which became a popular novel, which spawned four more books about its protagonist. It was adapted for film three times, notably (and to great acclaim) by Alfred Hitchcock, and once for television. The first version of the play, written by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and billed as a "parody," toured in 1995. Patrick Barlow consequently rewrote their script, premiering his adaptation in London in 2005. His version hopped the pond to become a long-running Broadway smash, nominated for six Tonys in 2008 (including Best Play) and winning two. This month, more than 100 years later, a form of Buchan's story is playing live at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre. And I highly recommend you see this ingeniously staged, well-performed lark of a show.

Assassins, at the Black Box Theatre, is the cheeriest musical about unhappy people who made bad choices that I've ever seen. And prior to Thursday's performance, I didn't know it was literally about those who killed American presidents, or tried to – I just saw "music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim" and said, "I'm in."

The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's Shout! The Mod Musical played to a full boat on Friday. The performances were exhilarating, and the winning score was comprised of 1960s hits. However, the script made that of Mamma Mia! seem Oscar Wildean. Well, you can't have everything. And what you do have here is substantially entertaining.

I was in Friday's opening-night audience for the Mississippi Bend Players' Dames at Sea. George Haimsohn and Robin Miller wrote the 1966 piece's book and lyrics, with music by Jim Wise, and as Augustana College's Brunner Theatre lobby display notes, it's a spoof of the films Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and 42nd Street. The old show-biz tropes it sends up are easy targets, and the tunes are imitative (naturally), but vastly enjoyable. As for the script, it's just one giant, cheerful wink in which continuity and plausibility are irrelevant. Show people playing show people putting on a show is a sea of fun to begin with, and the plot merely dips a toe in the water now and then, leaving the singing and dancing to make the big splash – which, here, they do.

You know ABBA, right? The 1970s pop group, beloved worldwide, wrote and recorded the catchiest tunes this side of Lennon and McCartney? The Swedish foursome were all over the airwaves, and still are, and their body of work was the springboard that launched the musical Mamma Mia! The Timber Lake Playhouse is running its spectacular production of the show now. Grab a seat before they're gone.

I won't be coy: The Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Something Intangible, by Bruce Graham, is an imagining of the relationship between brothers Walt and Roy Disney, but with the names changed. They co-founded the Disney Bros. Studios, with Walt the visionary and Roy the money man.

It's magical to enter the theatre at Prospect Park and take in the huge, overarching proscenium studded with large round bulbs and that dark-red velvety curtain. Before Thursday's preview performance, I took a deep, happy breath as I absorbed this classic-American-theatre ambiance and anticipated a dazzling musical spectacle – and Quad City Music Guild gave me what I wanted.

If you know Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, you know it's a fun show. If you've seen the current troupe at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, you know how deep-down wonderful they are. And when this company took on this classic musical, I expected to be dazzled. I was, as was the capacity crowd for Saturday's opening matinée performance.

Noël Coward's 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit was adapted for film in 1945, as well as for television and radio and as a musical. It's been offered by multitudes of theatres, now including the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre – which proved, on Friday, that their production can stand with the best of them.

The opening-night, sell-out crowd filling the Black Box Theatre appeared engaged by, and mostly appreciative of, Little Women: The Musical. The talented cast performed with gusto, intelligence, and tenderness, as required. Unfortunately, however, the adaptation itself of the late-19th-century Louisa May Alcott classic left me disappointed overall.

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