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.

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!”

If you have a preconceived notion that William Shakespeare plays are uppity, pretentious, or hard to follow, then you need to get yourself over to the QC Theatre Workshop this weekend to see the Prenzie Players’ current production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Friday’s opening night of this hilarious romp was just so much fun that it’s hard to properly articulate all that made it so. That’s not, however, going to stop me from trying.

The Black Box Theatre’s current show, Losers Bracket, isn’t exactly like the '80s sitcom Cheers, and Saturday’s theatrical barroom brawl was rife with profanity and strobe light effects that, for me, were painful. This tale of insurance fraud, dysfunctional relationships, and greed that all unfolds in a Chicago tavern known as Boo’s featured a few one-liners that I found funny – but other than that, I'd have to say, “Not my cup of tea.”

I was fortunate to attend Tuesday's rehearsal of Augustana College's current offering She Kills Monsters by playwright Qui Nguyen. Director Jeff Coussens and assistant director James Wheeler did stunning work in creating this ambitious production. When we enter the theatre, the stark stone ledges and pre-show music tell us that the show takes place (mostly) in a magical fantasy world, and the set comes to vigorous life after video screens light up, employing film, photos, computer animation, and amusing eight-bit color graphics to establish and enhance settings. I've rarely seen, in local presentations, stagecraft this sophisticated.

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas in the tiny town of Doublewide, Texas, and Saturday's performance of A Doublewide, Texas Christmas by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten was a hoot at the Richmond Hill Players' cozy Barn Theatre. It's a silly comedy full of colorful characters and even sillier situations, and judging by the full house and continual laughter, I would venture to say most everyone enjoyed themselves.

Prescription: Murder is the final show in the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's 90th season, which consisted of 11 productions in as many months. (After this, Barn members are taking a well-deserved rest of a month or so before staging their next presentation in February.) I saw Friday's opening-night performance, and if any of the cast, crew, and staff are exhausted from their busy year, it certainly wasn't apparent. Everything flowed.

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.

From the moment I entered the QC Theatre Workshop for Friday's opening-night performance of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, my head was in a different place than ever before – literally, as the stage and the seating had swapped places since my last visit. From the moment the final spotlight died, my head has been in a different place figuratively. Edward Albee's show, which debuted on Broadway in 2002 and won that year's Tony for Best Play, stirred thoughts and ideas that I'm still pondering.

Dance, Billy, dance! And that he did during the Spotlight Theatre’s current production Billy Elliot: The Musical. Friday’s opening-night performance was magical and certainly razzle-dazzled me. Directed by one of my favorite local actors, Adam Sanders, there was never a dull moment; the evening was full of spinning chair stunts, great chassés, pirouettes, tap dancing, and lots of outstanding singing.

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