Assassins, at the Black Box Theatre, is the cheeriest musical about unhappy people who made bad choices that I've ever seen. And prior to Thursday's performance, I didn't know it was literally about those who killed American presidents, or tried to – I just saw "music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim" and said, "I'm in."

Earlier this week, the Educational Theatre Association released its annual “10 Most-Produced High School Plays” list. She Kills Monsters, by Qui Nguyen, is number seven. And other than having plans to see Tuesday’s dress rehearsal at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre, I honestly hadn’t even heard of the play before – but now, after seeing it, understand why it’s such a popular choice.

Within the first nine minutes of Sara Tubbs’ solo directorial debut of Matilda: The Musical at the Spotlight Theatre, Friday's opening-night audience was clued into two things about the production: (1) The microphones had some issues, and (2) it almost didn’t matter, because of how much passion and energy this cast of 34 brought to the stage.

The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse Bootleggers have a cult following of enthusiastic fans that are very passionate about, and dedicated to, these talented performers who also double as the theatre's efficient wait staff, and Thursday's opening-night presentation of the group's mainstage show The Best of the Bootleggers certainly did not disappoint. There was a lot of clapping and singing along as 12 of the most talented Booties I've ever seen delivered a variety of musical numbers that left our audience longing for more.

There's a British invasion going on at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, and Friday's performance of The Who's Tommy was in your face, intense, and powerful, a rock opera that cranked up the volume on the phenomenal music of one of the most influential groups of the 20th century: English rock band The Who.

From Payton Brasher’s brooding Stage Manager soliloquy kicking off the evening to the concluding chase sequence set to music, Genesius Guild’s Ecclesiazusae doesn’t take itself too seriously. And yet this comedic production, originally written by Greek playwright Aristophanes in 391 BC and updated here by Don Wooten, still manages to make a statement appropriate for 2019.

I was in Friday's opening-night audience for the Mississippi Bend Players' Dames at Sea. George Haimsohn and Robin Miller wrote the 1966 piece's book and lyrics, with music by Jim Wise, and as Augustana College's Brunner Theatre lobby display notes, it's a spoof of the films Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and 42nd Street. The old show-biz tropes it sends up are easy targets, and the tunes are imitative (naturally), but vastly enjoyable. As for the script, it's just one giant, cheerful wink in which continuity and plausibility are irrelevant. Show people playing show people putting on a show is a sea of fun to begin with, and the plot merely dips a toe in the water now and then, leaving the singing and dancing to make the big splash – which, here, they do.

Madness. It was madness how much fun I had at the July 25 preview performance of the interactive mystery comedy Shear Madness at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse.

Although it was sweltering outside on Friday night, it was cool and comfortable inside the North Scott High School Fine Arts Auditorium. Nonetheless, a heat wave of talented artists stormed the stage as Countryside Community Theatre and Lancer Productions put on a sizzling opening-night performance of the jukebox musical Mamma Mia!

You know ABBA, right? The 1970s pop group, beloved worldwide, wrote and recorded the catchiest tunes this side of Lennon and McCartney? The Swedish foursome were all over the airwaves, and still are, and their body of work was the springboard that launched the musical Mamma Mia! The Timber Lake Playhouse is running its spectacular production of the show now. Grab a seat before they're gone.

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