Mary Beth Riewerts' Glinda and the Munchkin actors in The Wizard of OzAs enjoyable as Countryside Community Theatre's The Wizard of Oz is, the most thrilling part is this: The witches fly. While L. Frank Baum's familiar story of the Kansas girl who's blown to the land of Oz by a tornado has its fill of magic, Countryside adds some magic of its own by making its witches (and a flying monkey) airborne. It's a special touch to a show that, during Friday's opening-night performance, proved to be a gratifying evening's diversion - if a long one, running three hours from beginning to end.

Desmond Grasker, Curtis Wyatt, Joe Obleton, and Betty Cosey in A Lesson Before DyingI've been moved by several productions this year, but by none so deeply as the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's A Lesson Before Dying. In fact, I was in tears several times during Friday night's performance, including throughout most of the second act.

Tristan Layne Tapscott and Cari Downing (accompanied by Danny White) in The Last Five YearsI will admit that I had serious reservations prior to Wednesday night's performance of the Harrison Hilltop Theatre's The Last Five Years. As much as I enjoy Cari Downing's comedic stage work - I described how sensational she was in the Hilltop's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change earlier this year, and it's worth repeating - I wasn't so sure she was up to composer Jason Robert Brown's romantic musical. And the same went for Tristan Layne Tapscott, who I think is fantastically funny in comedy roles, but hit-or-miss in his more serious efforts. Under the direction of David Turley, though, they present a unique take on this criss-crossed storyline that has its own sweetness.

The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's The Drowsy ChaperoneThe Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's The Drowsy Chaperone is fantastically fun. Of course, it helps that the book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, and the music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, are filled with amusing lines, scenarios, and situations. It also helps that this summer's Showboat cast is so talented, appearing in one impressive production after another, including Thursday night's performance.

Ray Rogers, Terri Nelson, and Jackie Patterson in The Importance of Being EarnestAbout two minutes into Thursday night's performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, I panicked, knowing there were still two more hours of what had so far been - and seemed likely to continue to be - a flat, humorless presentation of playwright Oscar Wilde's work. Fortunately, though, my fears were mostly unfounded, as the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's production improved as it progressed, and greatly improved with the arrival of the play's female characters.

Jennifer Weingarten and Daniel Rairdin-Hale in If You Give a Mouse a CookieWhat happens if you give a mouse a cookie? Nothing good, if you're the cookie giver. If, however, you're watching what unfolds by way of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's current youth-theatre offering, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, it's a delightful experience.

Sara Elizabeth Speight, Jenny Winn, and Tristan Layne Tapscott in Jesus Christ SuperstarJudas is angry. Jesus is angry. Everyone's really angry in the Harrison Hilltop Theatre's Jesus Christ Superstar.

Bob Hanske and Patti Flaherty in AjaxI make a conscious effort to suppress expectations prior to seeing a production, for fear they'll rise to the unattainable. With Genesius Guild's Ajax, however, I couldn't help it. I was so taken with last year's Andromache, performed in traditional period masks, that I was giddy with anticipation to see this summer's Greek-tragedy offering. And despite a few apparent stumbles over lines and one glaringly missed cue, director Don Wooten's effort did not disappoint. Saturday night's performance of Sophocles' piece captivated me with its creative execution.

Tom Walljasper, Kristin Gilbert, and John Payonk in HairsprayThe Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Hairspray lacks polish from what seems to be, in the chorus roles, a fairly green cast. Yet even though that softens the strength of the production, it doesn't seem to diminish any of the fun. I had an incredibly good time watching Saturday night's performance, and while the entire show isn't quite worth the standing ovation it received, the final song, "You Can't Stop the Beat," does deserve that special accolade intended for exceptional performances.

Christina Myatt in GypsyAs if she hadn't already proven so in the previous three hours of Friday's Countryside Community Theatre performance, Christina Myatt left no doubt that she's worthy of the larger-than-life role of Mama Rose with Gypsy's final song, "Rose's Turn."

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