American Idiot, at the Adler TheatreI'm probably too old to go to the mall this December and sit on Santa's lap and tell him what I want for Christmas. (Cue the chorus of "Probably?!?") But if I did, as a huge fan of the local stage scene, I'd say that I really wanted a winter filled with plentiful and diverse theatrical options: musicals, dramas, comedies, dance presentations, family offerings, seasonal titles, a Tony winner here, a Pulitzer Prize winner there ... and if he also wanted to throw a Shakespeare or two into the mix, that'd be fine with me.

Well, look whose wish is coming true!

T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp, and Stephen KingStephen King. John Mellencamp. T Bone Burnett.

Three instantly recognizable names. Three iconic artists with enormous fan bases and lengthy lists of professional accomplishments. And, taken together, three of the last people you might expect to find collaborating on a musical for the stage.

Memphis at the Adler Theatre and Peoria Civic CenterStephen King, Agatha Christie, the Headless Horseman, Dracula, Medusa, Witches, Murder, Horror, Ghost Brothers ... . Halloween's more than two months away, and our area's fall-theatre lineup is already freaking me out.

Countryside Community Theatre presents Les Miserables"You know, it's been interesting," says Christina Myatt, president of the board of directors for the Eldridge-based Countryside Community Theatre (CCT). "Because we wanted to do something big for our 30th anniversary, and this is definitely something big. But when people hear what we're actually doing, they either say, 'That's really great!' or they say, 'You people are insane.'"

Beth Woolley in Bear GirlThe local theatre troupe the Prenzie Players is most commonly known for stylistically bold, occasionally gender-bending takes on classical dramas and comedies, principally the works of William Shakespeare. But the company is about to embark on a particularly challenging experiment with its forthcoming production of the debuting Bear Girl - and the play's author, Prenzie co-founder J.C. Luxton, could hardly be accused of aiming too low.

"If you think of Shakespeare's Henriad," says Luxton, referencing the Bard's historical trilogy of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, "it's kind of the epic of England. An epic story of who we are and how we came to be. And I think what I'm trying to do with Bear Girl is the beginnings of something similar for the Quad Cities area."

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.

author Dana-Moss Peterson (left), with Jessica Denney, in New Ground Theatre's Mr. MarmaladeOver the years, Davenport's New Ground Theatre has prided itself on the presentation of new works by emerging authors. But this year, even Artistic Director Chris Jansen is shocked to find the company not only producing eight new works in a season, but eight new works - the majority of them by local authors - over a two-night span.

Rock of Ages at the Adler TheatreWelcome to the Reader's annual article on springtime area-theatre productions, where our trek through the season's comedies, dramas, and musicals will have us taking a walk in the woods with Antigone, wandering into suburbia with Eurydice, and realizing that something's afoot in our town when Talley's folly makes Cinderella go boom on Avenue Q.

Okay, so that takes care of 10 upcoming titles ... only 50 or so to go ... .

Mitch Donahue, Alexander Robin Kass, Samantha Pauly, Kristin Gilbert, and Tristan Layne Tapscott in the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Legally Blonde: The MusicalFor our third-annual conversation on the Year in Theatre, Thom White - the Reader's chief theatre reviewer - and I thought we'd shake things up a bit. So instead of meeting for an hours-long breakfast to discuss the area stage scene, we met for an hours-long dinner to discuss the area stage scene.

And while I managed to keep things lively by spilling a completely full glass of water not 10 minutes after sitting down, we also managed to touch on many of the varied experiences that Thom (occasionally accompanied by his partner's daughter Madison) and/or I had during another eventful year for fans of the theatre. Pack a lunch, sit back, and dive in ... .

Bryan Woods, Sarah Hayes, and Diane Greenwood in Noises OffWhen I first learned that Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre was staging author Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning Noises Off this fall, I'll admit that the news made me chuckle, and not just because the show is so funny.