J. Adam Lounsberry, Tracy Pelzer-Timm, Jenny Winn, and Nathan Bates in Quad City Music Guild's Guys & DollsAs with summer movies, the area's summer-theatre scene - featuring, at last count, a whopping 68 productions scheduled by 22 organizations - is jam-packed with escapist fare: musicals, comedies, mysteries, musical-comedy mysteries. But like the random art-house release that manages to sneak into Hollywood's blockbuster-centric season, this summer will also feature occasional dramas and classical works, plus no less than four Pulitzer Prize-winners - five, if you count one of them being produced at two separate venues.

The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, in fact, has two of those Pulitzer recipients lined up for its 2010 season - Jonathan Larson's beloved rock musical Rent (June 3 through 13) and Stephen Sondheim's Seurat-inspired masterpiece Sunday in the Park with George (August 12 through 22) - while the rest of its mainstage fare consists "merely" of a trio of Tony Award winners: Michael Frayn's backstage farce Noises Off (June 17 through 27), the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn musical Big River (July 29 through August 8), and perhaps the most appropriate title the Showboat has ever produced in Jerome Kern's and Oscar Hammerstein's Show Boat (July 15 through 25). Meanwhile, the summer-stock company's interns will stage weekly shows just for the kids (Goldi & Little Red, Hansel & Gretel, and Omar!, alternating Saturdays June 19 through August 21) and presentations of Disney's High School Musical Jr. (July 10 and 11), with guest actor Jim Post performing the one-man Mark Twain & the Laughing River on Tuesdays, June 8 through August 10.

That's 10 summertime productions right there. And another eight come courtesy of Mt. Carroll's Timber Lake Playhouse, which will offer its own fare for young audiences in Charlotte's Web (July 6 through 10) and The Bridge to Terabithia (August 3 through 7), plus a mainstage sextet boasting music, laughs, and tears: the sizzling Fosse-Fosse-Fosse!-ness of Chicago (June 3 through 13), the Southern humor and heartbreak of Steel Magnolias (June 17 through 27), Rodgers & Hammerstein's timeless Oklahoma! (July 1 through 11), taxes made hilarious in Love, Sex, & the IRS (July 15 through 25), the Tony-winning (and previously referenced) musical-comedy mystery Curtains (July 29 through August 8), and a hysterical musical with - as you'll soon see - this summer's most omnipresent title, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (August 12 through 22).

Tom Milligan, Kay Francis, Sean McCall, and Deborah Kennedy in the Old Creamery Theatre's RumorsElsewhere in Illinois, but outside the Quad Cities, Galesburg's Orpheum Theatre also hosts the Tony-winning Spelling Bee (August 20 through 22), while Princeton's summer-stock organization Festival 56 offers a full seven productions over less than seven weeks: the endearing boy-band musical Forever Plaid (June 25 through July 3), Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost (June 27 through August 4), the tap-dance extravaganza Dames at Sea (July 9 through 17), Larry Shue's popular farce The Nerd (July 13 through 18), Yasmina Reza's artful Tony winner Art (July 20 through 25), Ken Ludwig's show-biz spoof Moon Over Buffalo (July 23 through 29), and Lynn Ahrens' and Stephen Flaherty's non-musical comedy mystery Lucky Stiff.

Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, meanwhile, serves up a trio of comedies in Dennis R. Andersen's cheeky romance Funny Valentines (June 3 through 13), Rick Abbot's crime farce A Turn for the Nurse (July 8 through 18), and Christmas Belles (August 5 through 15), a follow-up to 2008's riotous Richmond Hill outing Dearly Beloved, with that production's cast members - every last one of 'em - reuniting for the sequel.

Iowa City will have plenty to offer audiences in the summer of '10, with the Englert Theatre hosting the Young Footliters' kiddie-gangster musical Bugsy Malone (August 13 through 15), and the annual Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival (also) producing Love's Labour's Lost (June 11 through July 11) in repertory with that feel-good romance Romeo & Juliet (June 18 through July 10), plus the theatre's Young People's Company delivering their take on the Bard's gender-bending comedy Twelfth Night (July 22 through 25).

Neighboring Coralville will find its City Circle Acting Company bringing a comic strip to life in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (June 11 through 20) and a Stephen Schwartz classic to the stage in Godspell (July 25 through 25). Anamosa's Starlighters Theatre gives audiences a reunion with Ol' Blue Eyes in My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra (July 30 through August 8). Maquoketa's Ohnward Fine Arts Center brings the nonsecular wit of the original Nunsense (July 25 through 25), plus a pair of one-day-only productions: the family-friendly The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (August 14) and the dramatic musical romance Love Comes Softly (August 22).

Iowa's Amana Colonies will house a quartet of entertainments at the Old Creamery Theatre: Neil Simon's Tony-winning farce Rumors (June 3 through July 3), the Minnesota music and comedy of A Don't Hug Me County Fair (July 15 through August 15), patriotic cross-dressing with the quick-change artists of Red, White, & Tuna (August 19 through September 5), and the children's-book fun of Miss Nelson Is Missing (July 31 through August 14). And Theatre Cedar Rapids wraps up its 2009-10 season with the growing-more-legendary-by-the-day Rent (July 9 through 25). The first production in the theatre's 2010-11 season, by the way? The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!

Stacy Herrick, Nathan Johnson, Kady Patterson, Archie Williams, and Jackie Skiles in the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's Funny ValentinesYet those hoping to catch the show prior to September - and closer to home, to boot - will have their chance when Davenport's Harrison Hilltop Theatre stages Spelling Bee August 12 through 28, the third in the company's trio of summertime titles that begins with that modern musical classic Sunday in the Park with George (June 10 through 26) and continues with the Peanuts-themed dramatic comedy Dog Sees God (July 15 through 31). Davenport's New Ground Theatre has a thoughtful and humorous work of its own lined up in author Kate Fodor's 100 Saints You Should Know (July 9 through 18), while Moline's Playcrafters Barn Theatre delivers a Pulitzer Prize winner with August Wilson's family drama - and current Broadway smash - Fences (July 9 through 18).

On June 18, the Quad Cities' interactive-comedy troupe It's a Mystery brings its gangster-themed Whacked at da Wedding to Rock Island's Skellington Manor, while the city's Center for Living Arts finds its students getting musical with the riotous Presley-meets-Shakespeare pastiche All Shook Up (June 25 and 26) and the nonsecular pop sensation Godspell (July 16 and 17). And after its Lincoln Park season begins with Ballet Quad Cities' annual Ballet Under the Stars presentations (June 11 through 13), Rock Island's Genesius Guild bookends a pair of easy-to-pronounce Shakespearean titles - A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 2 through 11) and Richard III (July 17 through 25) - with a pair of harder-to-pronounce Greek titles in Andromache (June 19 through 27) and Ecclesiazusae (July 31 through August 8).

Faithful to its name, Moline's Quad City Music Guild offers a lavish musical for each of the summer months, presenting the Damon Runyon-esque smoothies of Guys & Dolls (June 11 through 20), the singin'-and-dancin' teens of Grease (July 9 through 18), and the farcical suspects and sleuths of Curtains (August 6 through 15). Across the river, Eldridge's Countryside Community Theatre delivers its own pair of musicals with the exclamation-pointed Oklahoma! (June 18 through 27) and Annie (July 23 through August 1), a show that will likely have young audiences exclamation-pointing their excitement throughout.

The Davenport-based Curtainbox Theatre Company brings to the area Philip William McKinley - the director of Broadway's Hugh Jackman musical The Boy from Oz - for Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Wit, running August 12 through 29, and stages its own take on the Tony-winning comedy Art from June 10 through 27. (As one of the show's cast members, I thought about writing "So if you see just one production this summer, make it Art!", but realized that'd just be obnoxious.)

And finally, Rock Island's Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse starts the summer season with the regional debut of Whodunit ... the Musical (May 26 through July 10), brings P.D. Eastman's children's book to life in Go, Dog, Go! (June 10 through 29), stages a December-December romantic comedy with Squabbles (July 14 through August 28), and gives my friends and former co-workers - the Circa '21 Bootleggers - their own full-length vehicle in 8-Track: The Sounds of the '70s (Thursdays, August 5 through 26). Those guys get to sing two acts' worth of classics like "Brick House," "Afternoon Delight," and "Bohemian Rhapsody." I've never been so jealous in my life.


For more information on the area's summer-theatre offerings, visit RCReader.com/calendars/reader-theatre-calendar.

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