Doug Kutzli, Chris Tracy, Matt Holmes, Wendy Czekalski, Mike kelly, and Bob Manasco in Monty Python's SpamalotThe District Theatre's Monty Python's Spamalot seems like an amateur talent show, particularly due to the limitations of the company's new performance space in Rock Island's former Grape Life venue. (The new locale is so small, it redefines "intimate theatre" in the Quad Cities.) Yet while the limited movement due to the lack of stage space creates an amateurish feel, I'm happy to say that much of the rest of Friday's production emphasized talent. If it was an intentional decision to present the material as a novice attempt to recreate Monty Python's (arguably) best-loved film, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, it was a smart one on director Tristan Tapscott's part. Space doesn't allow for a big production, so Tapscott embraces the limitations of the new stage area, and it works.

Don Denton in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatDriving home from the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse on Friday night, after seeing the opening performance of the musical Joseph & the Technicolor Dreamcoat, I asked my husband, "Can you honestly think of anyone who wouldn't like this show?" We couldn't. And I still can't. With its appealing confluence of technical effects, engaging storytelling, musical styles, memorable characters, and lessons in forgiveness, humility, and hope, even those grudging types who would rather be dressed in bologna and tossed into a shark tank than see a musical can find something in Joseph to laugh at, mull over, be inspired by, or appreciate on a sensory level.

Essentials Tyson Danner (left) and James Bleecker (standing), with Jackie Madunic and Jason Platt, in Angels in America: Perestroika For the third year in a row, I've composed a list of 12 area-theatre participants who devoted their time, energy, and skills to numerous theatrical organizations and venues during the past year. And once again - happily and inspiringly - it hasn't been necessary to repeat names from one year to the next; local theatre, to the great good fortune of local audiences, never seems to run out of talent.

Bryan Tank and Sheri Hess in EvitaIn its opening minutes, Quad City Music Guild's Evita is so thrilling that even though the production begins with a funeral, I found it nearly impossible to stifle my giggles.

Dallas Drummond, Chris Castle, and Nathan Batles in Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat When I learned that Quad City Music Guild's new presentation of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would feature a cast of nearly a hundred - 98, to be exact - I was both thrilled and slightly concerned. Thrilled because ... well, come on, what fan of musicals wouldn't want to see and hear an assemblage of that many performers?

But my concern stemmed from wondering what director Harold Truitt was going to do with them all. Even with 56 members of the children's chorus seated on both sides of the stage, apart from the main action, 42 seemed a rather excessive number of participants for this enjoyably featherweight biblical piece. Would Joseph's enormity prove beneficial, or detrimental?

634 Cover - Summer Guide 2007 Ted Neeley portrayed Jesus Christ in the 1973 film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice's seminal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. He is currently reprising the role in a national tour of the show, which lands at Davenport's Adler Theatre on May 23. And in between these gigs, Neeley has performed the part in numerous other touring productions, benefits, and, once, alongside a cast of grade-school apostles.

It's impossible to ignore the irony: Ted Neeley has now been playing Jesus for longer than Jesus was alive.

"Yeah, I've been doing it now for just over 2,000 years," says Neeley with a laugh.

The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's latest production is, nearly element for element, an awesome technical achievement. The set, conceived by Dawn Robyn Petrlik, is a glorious mess of artful decay, Ron Breedlove's lighting effects are mostly extraordinary, and the sound quality is superb. (Dave Vanderkamp's continually outstanding sound design is overdue for mention.)

Author's note: Prior to my full-time tenure at the Reader, I worked at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, and for Dennis Hitchcock, for 11 years. This was one of those rare interviews that didn't start with a handshake, but rather a hug.

When I was in seventh grade, my chorus class took a charter bus up to Chicago to see Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. From a row near the back of the theatre, I watched the vibrant speck that was Donnie Osmond belt out the tunes "Close Every Door" and "Joseph's Coat." On the return trip home, while the chaperone mothers murmured in fascination over the dark-haired leading man, we chorus students amused ourselves with a Joseph sing-along. The music was just that unforgettable and appealing, even to our usually unimpressionable teenage minds.

Emily Browning, Jim Carrey, and Liam Aiken in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate EventsLEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

A friend recently introduced me to the considerable joys of Daniel Handler's Lemony Snicket novels, the first three of which have been adapted for the new Jim Carrey vehicle Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.Handler rivals Roald Dahl in his talent for concocting exquisitely macabre and funny children's stories, and the Unfortunate Events series is almost embarrassingly enjoyable reading. (I'm currently on book nine of, thus far, 11.) The novels follow three orphans - Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny - as they're whisked from relative to relative while evading their evil uncle, Count Olaf, a demented character actor attempting to murder them for their inheritance, and the surprising intricacy of the books' plotting is matched by their wit and humor; after reading them you feel jazzed and alert, like waking from an oddly funny nightmare.

Pages