Livvy Marcus, Jonathan Young, Bailey Jordan Reeves, and Christian Chambers in My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank SinatraThe Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra is filled with beautiful vocals from beginning to end, as Christian Chambers, Livvy Marcus, Jonathan Young, and Bailey Jordan Reeves sing their way through 55 of Sinatra's songs. Backed by a three-piece band under the lead of musical director Matt Bean, who also plays piano, this production covering the singer's hits - along with a few facts about his life thrown in here and there - sounds sensational, and is a true delight for the ears.

Jason Gabriel (center), Thomas Brooke, Kelly Rose Thompson, and Michael Alexander (top) in Jesus Christ SuperstarDirector Jeff Ashcraft's vision for Countryside Community Theatre's Jesus Christ Superstar is clear from the very beginning. As the orchestra, under music director Keith Haan's capable leadership, plays the overture to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's and lyricist Tim Rice's gospel story, images of recent religious, political, and social figures and world events are projected on a large screen. It's as if Ashcraft is saying that these are the reasons we need a savior (e.g., terrorism), and that these are the vessels through which Christ's message reaches the world (e.g., Mother Teresa). Ashcraft not only modernizes the story's setting - aided by designer Emilee Droegmiller's present-day costumes and the use of cell phones, tablets, and video cameras throughout - but immediately makes the case for a modern need for Jesus Christ.

Cullen Rogers, Paige ManWaring, Brian Pauley, Judy Knudtson, Brigitte Ditmars, and Matt W. Miles in The Big MealPlaywright Dan LeFranc's The Big Meal deserves every superlative I can, and will, use to praise it. The forward progression of his plot about the life of a couple from first meeting to final resting place is extraordinary, and Timber Lake Playhouse's production does it justice. This is a presentation that tickles the funny bone, pulls the heartstrings, and turns on the waterworks. It is, quite frankly, emotionally stunning.

Howard Eckdahl, Michael Callahan, Mischa Hooker, Kristan Mitchell, and Nathan Windt in Gianni SchicchiSaturday's performance of Genesius Guild's and Opera @ Augustana's Gianni Schicchi was rained out, which presented a dilemma: Do I act responsibly and attend and review Sunday's performance instead, or do I make an excuse so that I can watch the season finale of Game of Thrones? I chose the former, and while it was difficult to avoid spoilers from what I hear was a shocking finale, I do not regret attending the opera instead.

Natalie Fisher in CatsI struggle with where to begin in praising director Matthew Teague Miller's Cats at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, simply because there's so much to praise.

Michael Carron, Calvin Co, and Adam Cerny in TribesThe QC Theatre Workshop's Tribes didn't start off well for me on Friday, as I immediately hated Adam Cerny's overacting, with eye rolls so huge I was sure anyone in the lobby could see them through the curtain that separates it from the performance space. So I prepared myself for two hours of such overly dramatic physicality, after first cursing director Jennifer Popple for casting Cerny as a son in playwright Nina Raine's troubled-family saga.

It didn't take long, however, for Cerny to completely change my mind, as it became clear that his Daniel is, himself, over-dramatic, given that his manic figure hears voices in his head. Cerny's characterization, it turns out, isn't bad acting; it's actually spot-on, and moved me from initial dislike - agreeing with Michael Carron's crotchety, opinionated patriarch Christopher that Daniel should "F--- off!" - to sympathetic pity for this troubled person. It was also through Daniel's viewpoint that I experienced Raine's story of a constantly arguing family that cruelly teases each other, with their only sense of grounding coming from Calvin Vo's Billy, the clan's ever-patient, deaf-from-birth younger son.

Sam Leicht, Rosie Upton, Eli Emmit, and Amelia Jo Parish in HairsprayGood gawd is the Timber Lake Playhouse's Hairspray fun. I went into Saturday's matinée with eager anticipation and left with a sense of thrilled enjoyment, floating on a cloud of happiness. Director Lili-Anne Brown's production of this musical based on John Waters' 1988 film is not only a helluva good time for us, but a rockin' wild ride for Amelia Jo Parish's Tracy Turnblad, as Hairspray's lead goes from overweight sideliner to local-dance-show star to racial-integration crusader in 1960s Baltimore.

Victor Angelo and Jonathan Grafft in The Boys Next DoorI sat through Thursday's The Boys Next Door at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre fascinated and perplexed by the mixture of emotions I felt. Author Tom Griffin's play about four men with various degrees of mental illness living together in a group home is a comedy, for sure. But director John VanDeWoestyne and his cast presented it in such a way that I wanted to "Ha!" and "Aw-w-w!" simultaneously during almost every moment. The piece is both funny and deeply touching, and much of the credit for that goes to the perfectly cast actors playing the titular "boys." While it took time for a couple of them to win me over, by intermission, each one had me convinced that he shouldn't have been cast any other way.

Natalie Anderson, Allison Willie, Autumn Loose, Lauren VanSpeybroeck, Krianna Walljasper, Ben Klocke, Gage McCalester, and Hailie Shemek in The Sound of MusicThere's an effervescent joy permeating the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's The Sound of Music from beginning to end - minus the Nazi involvement, of course. Director/choreographer Jim Hesselman's production exudes an infectious glee that, for me, lifts this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic to new heights of performance pleasure. And as Hesselman must know that audiences take great delight in its composers' cherished musical and remember it fondly, he plays to those happy memories.

It was difficult to go into Saturday's performance of New Ground Theatre's The Way West without high expectations given the cast of women involved. I've enjoyed all four of them in the past and was certain I'd be impressed yet again, and by the end of the night, my respect for their talents was mostly renewed due to each one's admirable characterization.

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