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.

At Tuesday's preview performance of the Mississippi Bend Players' The Santaland Diaries at Augustana College, I had everything I needed for a respite from the relentless, forced holiday cheer outside. I had my seat in a cozy venue among a small passel of students revved up for their imminent academic break. I had a play by David Sedaris, one of my favorite writers. I had another lovely (and festively sparkly) Augustana set to gaze at, this one by technical director and scenic/lighting designer Mark Lohman. I had Keenan Odenkirk, one of my favorite actors. I had my cynical holiday exasperation dialed up to eight. It was the perfect storm.

With the New York Times lauding the show as “both a peppy celebration of can-do spirit and a more somber exploration of what American servicemen experienced when they marched home from World War II,” the Tony Award-winning musical Bandstand serves as the latest presentation in the Adler Theatre's Broadway at the Adler series, its December 16 staging in Davenport underscoring why Time Out New York wrote, “The show defies you not to be moved.”

You don’t want to be late for the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's latest presentation Mr. Scrooge! A Musical Christmas Carol. About 15 minutes before the November 30 performance, actor Brad Hauskins appeared, clanging a bell and wandering about the house announcing that the show would begin shortly. With his proclamation, the production's merry band of actors appeared in a flurry of revelry – some delegated to bring props and costume pieces on stage, others to interact with young audience members through amusing games and activities – and immediately lifted the audience energy from unremarkable to “Wow!”

I attended the Wednesday preview performance of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Elf: The Musical, and director Jeremy Littlejohn and musical director Travis Smith have clearly concocted a sweet, fluffy treat. The songs may be standard fare, but they're given freshness by the performers, as well as the beautiful costuming by Greg Hiatt.

Local Theatre Auditions/Calls for Entry

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2019

Reviews by Jeff Ashcraft, Patricia Baugh-Riechers, Audra Beals, Pamela Briggs, Dee Canfield, Kim Eastland, Emily Heninger, Heather Herkelman, Paula Jolly, Victoria Navarro, Mark Ruebling, Mike Schulz, Joy Thompson, Oz Torres, Brent Tubbs, Jill (Pearson) Walsh, and Thom White.

Entering any theatre venue usually puts me in a good mood. A few places resonate especially deeply inside me. For instance, I love walking into Allaert Auditorium in the Galvin Fine Arts Center on the St. Ambrose University campus. It was my home-away-from home before, during, and after my four years of theatre study there.

If you’re looking for an easy way to get revved up about the holiday season, I suggest director Kevin Pieper’s area premiere of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical at Quad City Music Guild. This upbeat musical comedy will certainly warm your heart and sweetly remind you of what’s truly important this time of year: kindness.

Described by the Chicago Reader as “a hilarious adult romp through the holiday season” and by the Chicago Tribune as “well-stocked with laughs and wry human commentary,” the stage version of David Sedaris' iconic The Santaland Diaries serves as the Mississippi Bend Players' first production outside its traditional summer seasons, the show's December 12 through 15 run at Augustana College sure to deliver what Broadway World deemed a “delightful and sometimes edgy holiday comedy extravaganza.”

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