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.

It's magical to enter the theatre at Prospect Park and take in the huge, overarching proscenium studded with large round bulbs and that dark-red velvety curtain. Before Thursday's preview performance, I took a deep, happy breath as I absorbed this classic-American-theatre ambiance and anticipated a dazzling musical spectacle – and Quad City Music Guild gave me what I wanted.

Sure, it’s cliché. But of all the Shakespeare tragedies, Hamlet is my favorite, so I was excited to take in director Alaina Pascarella’s version in Lincoln Park on Saturday night. And Genesius Guild took this classic, trimmed it down, and kept it enjoyable for enthusiastic William Shakespeare fans and newcomers both.

I won't be coy: The Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Something Intangible, by Bruce Graham, is an imagining of the relationship between brothers Walt and Roy Disney, but with the names changed. They co-founded the Disney Bros. Studios, with Walt the visionary and Roy the money man.

Whenever I visit Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, I'm reminded of how wholesome, welcoming, and beautiful this location in the Midwest is, and how this unique venue is truly a lovely place to take in a show. The players’ latest production, author Jack Sharkey's Missing Link, is a marital comedy full of all kinds of twists and turns, mistaken identities, and romantic conundrums, and it gives patrons a lighthearted look at the things we do for love.

As a rule, I don’t give standing ovations. However, on Friday evening, I gave one of the most honest standing ovations of my life at A Green River, currently running at Augustana College care of the Mississippi Bend Players. Across the board, this show, directed by Philip Wm. McKinley, could have flown across a London sky via umbrella, because it was practically perfect.

If you know Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, you know it's a fun show. If you've seen the current troupe at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, you know how deep-down wonderful they are. And when this company took on this classic musical, I expected to be dazzled. I was, as was the capacity crowd for Saturday's opening matinée performance.

What a magical Saturday afternoon I had at the Timber Lake Playhouse enjoying the company's latest summer production of Into the Woods, a storybook brought to life with fabulous fables and folk tales including those of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood.

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