Jersey Boys at the Civic Center of Greater Des MoinesAt last count, there were a grand total of 69 theatrical productions scheduled to debut at area venues between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. That's awfully impressive. Yet what's even more impressive - and, in all honesty, really unusual - is that you could actually catch all 69 without ever seeing the same show twice.

Granted, in the case of two of them, you'd slip through on a technicality: Eldridge's Countryside Community Theatre presents an eagerly awaited take on the Broadway behemoth Les Misérables July 5 through 21, while the youths of Rock Island's The Center for Living Arts, from July 26 through 28, tackle the somewhat modified Les Misérables: School Edition (a show preceded at the venue by Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on June 14 and 15). But the sheer, non-repeating variety of this summer's play-and-musical lineup is still rather remarkable for the area, and I'm not even talking specifically about the Quad Cities area; I'm talking about the area covered between Peoria and Des Moines, for Pete's sake.

The Peoria Civic Center, for instance, is the nearest place to find the beloved Bernstein/Sondheim collaboration West Side Story (May 20 and 21) this summer, and unless you're up for a really long drive - or, preferably, a flight - you'll only find the Tony-winning Four Seasons triumph Jersey Boys at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines (July 24 through August 4). Another Broadway smash gets a lavish staging when the cheeky, '80s-hair-band hoot Rock of Ages lands at Cedar Rapids' Paramount Theatre (May 23). And although the city's Theatre Cedar Rapids offers a memorable musical of its own with Spring Awakening (June 28 through July 28), the company will also lean toward the dramatic with Thornton Wilder's iconic Our Town (June 6 through 16), while Cedar Rapids' neighboring Brucemore delivers an outdoor rendition of Edmond Rostand's romantic masterpiece Cyrano de Bergerac (July 11 through 20).

Classics staged closer to home will, of course, come courtesy of Rock Island's Genesius Guild, which serves up Lincoln Park presentations of Mozart's The Magic Flute (June 15 through 23), Euripides' Alcestis (June 29 through July 7), Aristophanes' - and adapter Don Wooten's - The Acharnians (July 27 through August 4), and Shakespeare's Coriolanus (July 13 through 21). The Bard also gets a summertime workout at Iowa City's Riverside Theatre, where the 18th Century satire The School for Scandal (June 21 through July 7) runs in repertory with Shakespeare's tragic Hamlet (June 14 through July 6). Princeton, Illinois' Festival 56, meanwhile, has the master playwright covered with its production of Macbeth (June 30), an outdoor offering occurring in tandem with indoor stagings of Completely Hollywood [abridged] (June 21 through 29), Talley's Folly (July 2 through 9), The Heiress (July 16 through 20), Treasure Island (July 20 through 26), and the song-and-dance fun of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (July 5 through 15) and The Full Monty (July 27 through August4).

West Side Story at the Peoria Civic CenterMore hit musicals are on hand within the area's other summer-stock rosters. The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre - in addition to presenting the comedies Camp Christmas (July 19 and 20), Rock Around the Classroom (August 9 and 10), and Almost, Maine (August 15 through 23) - will offer up four of them via Forever Plaid (June 6 through 16), Godspell (June 20 through 29), The Sound of Music (July 3 through 21), and She Loves Me (July 25 through August 3). And Mt. Carroll's Timber Lake Playhouse, which will stage a touching drama with Tuesdays with Morrie (June 20 through 29) and a giddy slapstick with Unnecessary Farce (July 18 through 27), has a musical quintet lined up with A Chorus Line (June 6 through 16), The Music Man (July 5 through 14), Seussical Jr. (July 9 through August 10), Monty Python's Spamalot (August 1 through 15), and the Gershwin revue S'Wonderful (August 15 through 25).

You want even more musicals this summer? You got 'em! Anamosa's Starlighters Theatre says "L'Chaim!" to the theatrical staple Fiddler on the Roof (August 2 through 11), and Maquoketa's Ohnward Fine Arts Center cavorts with the gamblers and showgirls of Guys & Dolls (July 19 through 21) before entertaining family audiences with The Princess & the Pea (August 3). Iowa City's University of Iowa, for its annual summer-repertory season, houses the pinball wizard of The Who's Tommy (July 18 through 27) alongside the traveling-theatre artists of No Fish in the House (June 28 through July 13) and the definitive child from hell of The Bad Seed (June 28 through July 13).

The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts has a pair of tune-filled Tony winners on the horizon with Shrek the Musical (June 14 through 16) and Rent (August 2 through 4), presented alongside the family entertainments The Little Mermaid Jr. (July 19 through 21) and Calamity Jane & the Showdown at Dry Gulch (August 4). And I'm sure it goes without saying that Quad City Music Guild isn't letting a summer season pass without staging a trifecta of musical hits, and the Moline organization looks to have a hearty one on its hands with its forthcoming Cabaret (June 14 through 23), Peter Pan (July 12 through 21), and 9 to 5: The Musical (August 9 through 18).

Rock of Ages at the Paramount TheatreRock Island's Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse delivers a musical trio of its own with Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (June 25 through July 27), Southern Crossroads (August 16 through September 21), and the crossroads of a different sort in Menopause: The Musical (June 5 through August 10). Circa '21's neighbors at the District Theatre have Little Shop of Horrors (July 10 through 28) as a song-filled complement to three summer plays: The Chronicles of Lincoln & Grant (May 24 and 25), Doubt (June 13 through 23), and reasons to be pretty (August 8 through 18). [Editor's note: See the Comments section below for the District Theatre's updated summer schedule.] Meanwhile, the other side of Rock Island - Lincoln Park, to be specific - will host the professional dancers of Ballet Quad Cities, whose annual Ballet Under the Stars (June 7 through 9) presentations offer music with none of that pesky talking getting in the way.

As a personal fan of pesky talking, I'm happy to also see several original plays on our area's summertime theatre schedule. Journey Live Production will, through poetry and performance art, create the urban-community landscape of America Assassination (May 24 through 26) at Davenport Junior Theatre, while the Prenzie Players offer a slice of Native American history in author J.C. Luxton's debuting Bear Girl (June 14 through 22). That production will be housed at the QC Theatre Workshop, which presents its own theatrical premiere - myself among its cast - with Aaron Randolph III's war-veteran drama A Green River (July 5 through 14). As for Iowa's Princeton Players, they bring an original spin to Greek mythology in the Boll's Community Center staging of Argonuts: Jason & the Quest for the Golden Fleece (August 9 through 11).

Speaking of nuts, there'll be plenty more of 'em on display in the other area productions hoping to score summertime laughs. Amana's Old Creamery Theatre will host comic actors galore in its quartet of theatrical comedies: Diary of a Worm, a Spider, & a Fly (June 15 through 29), Moonlight & Magnolias (July 11 through 28), Lumberjacks in Love (August 1 through September), and season-starter Cookin' with Gus (May 30 through June 30). Further culinary cackles can be had with the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's Geneseo staging of 100 Lunches: A Gourmet Comedy (June 6 through 16), which precedes the venue's farcical melodrama The Curse of an Aching Heart (July 11 through 21) and the farce-sans-melodrama Love Thy Neighbor (August 15 through 25). And the Playcrafters Barn Theatre, to wrap up this year's preview of summer-seaason titles, will host laughs times "Fore!" in The Fox on the Fairway (July 12 through 21), which is a slapstick comedy by Lend Me a Tenor author Ken Ludwig, and not the long-awaited stage account of my miniature-golf obsession. The wait continues, I'm afraid.


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

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