Friday was opening night for You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at the Spotlight Theatre, and it was a crazy, fun evening filled with lighthearted comedy and loaded with some of my favorite area talent. I really enjoyed the simple, childlike playfulness that the entire cast exuded, as it was evident that everyone was having a great time and glad to be back on stage.

What is the essence of an artist? And how do they make themselves unique and entertaining? In my view, an artist is an extremely creative individual who demonstrates the ability to arouse one’s emotions and tantalize their senses, causing them to feel alive. And that’s exactly what I felt during Thursday’s dress-rehearsal preview of La Divina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas, now playing at the lovely Black Box Theatre in downtown Moline.

Area theatre is back, and a beloved series is serving up some good ol’ Midwestern wholesomeness in The Church Basement Ladies in You Smell Barn at the Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse. This musical comedy was simply the perfect way for the venue to reopen in the wake of last year’s COVID-19 restrictions, and my husband and I had the privilege of attending Friday’s opening-night performance. It was fabulous.

It’s been a painfully long wait, but I finally got to crack open my new notebook and fresh pen for Wednesday night's performance of The Savannah Sipping Society at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse.

The Playcrafters Barn Theatre's presentation of The Boxcar Children opened on Friday with a simple, wholesome journey of four Depression-era youngsters and their adventures as recent orphans. Knowing that they will likely go to different foster homes, the Alden children escape into the woods and find a boxcar in which they begin to live, and while the set design was sparse, the actors, for the most part, were excellent – I found myself carefully listening to each character as they expressed their innermost thoughts and feelings. Like the old saying goes, "Less is more," and in this show, I found that to be particularly true.

If you need some inspiration to help you get into the holiday spirit, then you should check out the Spotlight Theatre’s current production of Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical. I was lucky enough to catch a dress rehearsal on Tuesday night and it was delightful. Director Chris Tracy's production of this show I'd never seen before was already polished and ready to go with fantastic singing, dancing, and acting.

The Black Box Theatre’s current show, Losers Bracket, isn’t exactly like the '80s sitcom Cheers, and Saturday’s theatrical barroom brawl was rife with profanity and strobe light effects that, for me, were painful. This tale of insurance fraud, dysfunctional relationships, and greed that all unfolds in a Chicago tavern known as Boo’s featured a few one-liners that I found funny – but other than that, I'd have to say, “Not my cup of tea.”

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas in the tiny town of Doublewide, Texas, and Saturday's performance of A Doublewide, Texas Christmas by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten was a hoot at the Richmond Hill Players' cozy Barn Theatre. It's a silly comedy full of colorful characters and even sillier situations, and judging by the full house and continual laughter, I would venture to say most everyone enjoyed themselves.

Dance, Billy, dance! And that he did during the Spotlight Theatre’s current production Billy Elliot: The Musical. Friday’s opening-night performance was magical and certainly razzle-dazzled me. Directed by one of my favorite local actors, Adam Sanders, there was never a dull moment; the evening was full of spinning chair stunts, great chassés, pirouettes, tap dancing, and lots of outstanding singing.

I always like rooting for the underdog, and Saturday’s matinée performance of Disney’s Newsies: The Musical at the Timber Lake Playhouse is a David-versus-Goliath story full of vibrant and energetic dancing, coupled with excellent singing, as the cast of 27 took on this delightful Broadway smash. I especially enjoyed the scenic design by David Goldstein – an expanded set of rusty steel bars that were constructed into high platforms and stairs, reminding me of Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock set.

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