the touring production of Damn Yankees, coming to the Adler TheatreAfter compiling the list of stage presentations coming to area venues this spring, three things became immediately clear.

(1) Audiences are getting a rather intimidating number of options, with (at last count) no fewer than 57 plays or musicals scheduled to open between March 1 and May 31.

(2) Audiences are getting a rather incredible variety of options - everything from a comedy by Woody Allen to a musical by Woody Guthrie.

(3) Absolutely none of these numerous and diverse theatrical productions features me.

While drying your eyes, though, do your best to get excited about this spring's lineup anyway ... which, I hasten to add, shouldn't be very difficult.

Personally, I'm psyched for the chance to scratch a few more musicals off my must-see-before-I-die list, starting with Quad City Music Guild's take on composer/lyricist William Finn's riotous and touching The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (March 29 through April 1). Another recent Tony Award-winner arrives in the form of the exuberant - and decidedly adult - rock musical Spring Awakening (March 23 through April 7), which the Center for Living Arts will produce along with added performances of its hit presentations Rent: The School Edition (April 21 and May 19) and Godspell (April 14).

As a big fan of the stage sequel Southern Crossroads: A New Orleans Adventure, I'm stoked to finally see its forebear when the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse debuts the bluegrass revue Southern Crossroads (March 7 through April 14), which opens a Circa '21 spring that includes productions of the family musical Diary of a Worm, a Spider, & a Fly (March 29 through May 5) and the merry-widows comedy $preading It Around (April 18 through June 9). And in addition to Martin McDonagh's brilliantly funny/creepy The Pillowman (April 26 through May 12), the District Theatre offers the area debut of a heart-wrenching Tony-winner in Jason Robert Brown's musical tragedy Parade (March 20 through May 5).

Among area musicals I have had the pleasure to see previously, Augustana College is set to produce one of my favorites in the B-movie spoof Bat Boy: The Musical (April 27 through May 6). Love, baseball, and the devil will collide in the Adler Theatre's touring production of Damn Yankees (March 23), and Galesburg's Orpheum Theatre houses a pair of musicals fit for audiences of all ages: the lovely children's book adaptation The Secret Garden (April 6 and 7), and Disney's take on the timeless fairytale Beauty & the Beast (May 4 through 6).

Iowa Theatre Artists Company's Woody Guthrie's American SongThe Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's summer season actually begins in late spring, with the man-eating-plant fun of Little Shop of Horrors (May 31 through June 10), while Muscatine's Pearl City Players resurrect the spirit of Elvis Presley in the pop classic Bye Bye Birdie (March 1 through 4). Theatre Cedar Rapids, meanwhile, gets into the swing of things with the spirited '80s send-up The Wedding Singer (March 9 through 31), the venue's lone musical in a spring featuring the high-comic high jinks of Four Women Wearing the Same Dress (April 13 through May 5) and the signature Lewis Carroll madness of Alice in Wonderland (April 27 through May 19).

The memorable tunes of folk-music icon Woody Guthrie will be heard when the Amana-based Iowa Theatre Artists Company presents the stage revue Woody Guthrie's American Song (March 22 through 25). In addition to the spirit-world farce of House of Wonders (March 23 through April 1), and a fish-out-of-water comedy by that other Woody in Mr. Allen's Don't Drink the Water (April 27 through May 6), the Iowa City Community Theatre delivers a legendary musical in its Englert Theatre production of Gigi (March 1 through 4). And if you're the type who loves music all the more when there's none of that distracting singing getting in the way, you'll likely want to catch Ballet Quad Cities' trio of springtime offerings: the Anne-Frank-inspired From the Pages of a Young Girl's Life (March 3), the fairytale-influenced The Ugly Duckling (April 20), and the Tchaikovsky masterwork - one inspired by another fairytale - The Sleeping Beauty (April 19).

Scooting from fairytales to tales of derring-do, Davenport Junior Theatre wraps up its 2011-12 season with the adventures of Robin Hood (April 28 through May 26), while Arthurian legend is staged in the Timber Lake Playhouse's presentation of the The Sword in the Stone (May 8 through 11). Yet while those shows are, of course, suitable for children, I urge you to please - despite its title - do not bring the kids to Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre production of Christopher Durang's hilarious Baby with the Bathwater (April 20 through 28). You do know what tends to happen to both the bathwater and the baby, yes?

More dark laughs will come courtesy of New Ground Theatre's malevolent-imaginary-friend saga Mr. Marmalade (March 22 through April 1), which the organization will present prior to the backstage antics of Anton in Show Business (April 26 through May 6). A pair of beloved farces arrive at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre this spring, with the Geneseo venue offering up the Larry Shue slapstick The Nerd (April 12 to 22) and two actors creating an entire Texas town in Greater Tuna (May 31 through June 10). Anamosa's Starlighters II Theatre serves a neurotic's smörgåsbord in Self-Help for Dummies (April 20 through 29), while the Old Creamery Theatre lists no fewer than four comedies on its springtime docket: the family musical The Hare & the Tortoise (April 7 through 21); the Tony Award-winning The Gin Game (April 12 through 29); Ernest Thompson's sunset-years smash On Golden Pond (May 3 through 27); and the English mirth and mystery of Busybody (May 31 through July 1).

Iowa City Community Theatre's GigiAdditional whodunit entertainment arrives with two presentations by the interactive comedians of It's a Mystery - the Skellington Manor stagings of A Passion for Murder (March 9 and 30, and May 11) and Skellington's Last Resort (March 16, April 27, and May 18) - with cross-dressing comedy on hand in Black Hawk College's springtime production of Ken Ludwig's Leading Ladies (March 29 through 31). Across the Mississippi, the student performers of Scott Community College offer laughs of their own in the theatrical send-up Don't Talk to the Actors (April 12 through 21). And even more burgeoning stage talent will be on display when Cedar Rapids' Kirkwood Community College houses Lanford Wilson's autobiographical drama Lemon Sky (April 12 through 15), and Galesburg's Knox College delivers an Americana pastiche with Under Construction (May 16 through 19).

Following its production of the mystery farce If It's Monday, This Must Be Murder (March 9 through 18), the Playcrafters Barn Theatre gets serious with its historical drama Titanic: Aftermath (May 11 through 20), presented in conjunction with the 100-year anniversary of the luxury liner's sinking. A 20th-Century masterpiece gets a new staging in the City Circle Acting Company of Coralville's take on Thorton Wilder's Our Town (March 23 through April 1). Two Iowa City venues, meanwhile, will deliver a combined quintet of offerings that embrace aching tragedy and over-the-top hilarity, sometimes within the same show: Riverside Theatre delivers Broadway's detective-drama smash A Steady Rain (March 30 through April 15) and the locally written monologues of Walking the Wire: This Will Never Work (March 2 through 11), while University of Iowa performers enact the student-directed Sidewinders (March 2 through 4) and High School Hero (March 8 and 9), and the explosive Greek-theatre satire of Big Love (March 29 through April 14).

And what would an area-theatre season be without a little Shakespeare? Two weeks after the school's studio-theatre presentation of Neil LaBute's mordantly funny Reasons to Be Pretty (March 22 through 24), St. Ambrose University offers a mainstage production of the Bard's romantic roundelay A Midsummer Night's Dream (April 13 through 15). Over at Iowa City's Englert Theatre, the University of Iowa School of Music will present an operatic rendition of the tragic love story Romeo & Juliet (April 26 through 29). And landing back in the Quad Cities, our area's classical-theatre troupe the Prenzie Players will stage one of the most challenging of all of Shakespeare's works this spring, with the company's long-awaited stab at Tutus Andronicus (March 30 through April 7). "Stab," by the way, is the operative word there. Have you seen that Titus movie with Anthony Hopkins? Expect the Prenzies' latest to be really, really bloody. I can't wait.


For more information on the area's springtime theatre productions, visit

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