Leslie Kane and Joshua Pride in Figaro (photo by Daisy Hoang, Augustana Photo Bureau)Augustana College's Figaro is a fine example of how witty, self-referential humor makes for a better farce than does banal innuendo and silly, unrealistic door slamming. Playwright Charles Morey's recent adaptation of Pierre Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro (written in 1778) is sharply funny, filled with references to Beaumarchais' original trilogy ("It would take an Italian opera to describe [the plot.]") and digs at the rich ("How clever of you, sir, to be rich rather than smart.") There's still sexual innuendo and slamming doors, but Morey's script is so much quick-paced, pointedly humorous fun that the two-hour presentation rises above the level of most bedroom farce, especially considering that this production is populated by such a well-cast ensemble.

the Promises, Promises ensemble During a recent post-show conversation, an actor friend and I agreed that perhaps the most exciting moments at any theatrical production are those few seconds before the production even starts, when the lights dim, cell phones (please God) are turned to silent or vibrate, and the venue becomes alive with possibility - with the awareness that, in this live art form, absolutely anything can happen.

Jenny Winn, Christopher Thomas, and Sheri Hess in Into the Woods rehearsal So, fellow fans of the former Brew & View, there's good news and bad news:

The good news is that the building that housed this haven for independent releases (and those who love them) will once again be open for business.

The bad news is that it won't be screening independent movies. Or, for that matter, movies of any kind.

Yet while the hearts of film lovers might break, those of theatre lovers should rejoice, as Derek Bertelsen and Tyson Danner realize a live-entertainment dream with the August 10 unveiling of the Green Room, their new theatrical venue at 1611 Second Avenue in the District of Rock Island.

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?

Harold Truitt and Mike Millar"The cast hates me," says local performer Andy Davis during a recent rehearsal break. "Our first cast meeting, they were introducing us all and I said, 'Yeah, I'm playing Potter ... ,' and everybody booed."

So why is Davis so happy about it?

Probably because the Potter he's playing is the hateful, wheelchair-bound Henry Potter of Bedford Falls, and the show he's rehearsing for is the Quad City Music Guild's production of It's a Wonderful Life: The Musical. Considering people's familiarity with - and love for - the Frank Capra classic of 1946, Davis should only have worried if he didn't get booed.

Benjamin Cole and Nicole Horton When you visit the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, you know you won't get much in the way of spectacle - the intimate stage space is charming, but limited - so, instead, you look for inventiveness, especially when the production in question generally thrives on spectacle.

J. Adam Lounsberry and Nathan Bates in You're a Good Man, Charlie BrownAnyone who has spent a significant amount of time in theatre knows that if your first dress rehearsal goes even the least bit well, there's cause for celebration. Having seen the first dress of the Quad City Music Guild's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown this past Sunday, I can assure the production's participants: There's cause for celebration, because things appeared to go considerably better than "the least bit well."

How wonderful and humbling the last eight months have been.

When you hear director Kevin Pieper describe the Quad City Music Guild's production of A Christmas Carol as "a new show to the area," it's easy to be skeptical. Haven't we already seen this holiday chestnut - and in this area, no less - more times than we can count? (Hell, I've been in it twice since 1994.)

In the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's ingenious new production of Beauty & the Beast, the first things to catch your eye are a small bench located stage right and a large screen - it's nearly half the length of the stage - hanging upstage. On that screen is a rear projection of a rose, and it has a haunting, rough-edged quality; it looks like something that French waif on the Les Miz poster should be holding.

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