My kids grew up on Disney's Beauty & the Beast. I've seen the animated movies and TV specials. I've tripped over toys. I have faded photos of my daughter dressed in a brilliant ballroom gown. I've listened to Alan Menken’s soundtrack (with lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman) hundreds of times, seen the story performed on ice, and watched the live-action film earlier this year. But I’d never seen the Broadway-musical adaptation, and now that the Timber Lake Playhouse has opened its extravagant version of this classic tale, I can cross the live version off of my theatrical bucket list, too.

Marijuana is an “unspeakable scourge,” warns The Lecturer (played by an augmentedly-bearded Andy Curtiss) at the start of the QC Theatre Workshop's hilarious production of Reefer Madness. A scourge, warns the man, that's “turning all our children into hooligans and whores!”

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find innumerable lists of the greatest books of all time. But if you aren’t quite as well read as you’d like, the Spotlight Theatre has a solution for you with their inaugural production of All the Great Books (Abridged).

There’s a big reunion in Geneseo! To celebrate the 50th-anniversary season of the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, director John VanDeWoestyne got some of the 2008 Dearly Beloved gang back together for this summer’s sweetly nostalgic revival. The theatre’s audience voted to add the show to the season, and, along with over half the original production’s actors returning, the plot features its own reunion in the form of a family wedding. Dearly Beloved must have been remembered fondly because Thursday night’s opening was packed.

Fate and destiny: Are they real? Is love at first sight possible? So asks the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's The Bridges of Madison County, the romantic story of two strangers who, by chance, run into one another in rural Winterset, Iowa, in 1965. And the May 24 preview performance left me captivated, delivering beautiful ballads, impressive vocals, and stunning scenic design by Eric Luchen complete with a large backdrop screen that projected fantastic images of the Roseman covered bridge, simple farmhouses, and green pastures.

“Four cities, four past romances, four stories to be told (four nearly identical hotel rooms).” That's the premise behind the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Barn Owl presentation of Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s), and alternating between the emotionally draining, bitingly funny, viciously cynical, and surprisingly engaging, the comedy/drama might best be described as a how-to manual on how not to make amends with your past relationships.

Who knew that something as benign as bingo could be a cutthroat, super-competitive soap opera, complete with callers enjoying something extra for announcing the right bingo balls, zany rituals performed over cards, rice-cereal-treat bribes, and WWE-style heels and heroes? It just goes to show that the competitiveness of the human experience filters even into the most unlikely and folksy slices of Americana, as demonstrated in Bingo! The Winning Musical, the kooky musical offering at Moline's Playcrafters Barn Theatre.

This past Friday, on a lovely spring night, we had church over at the Black Box Theatre. Powerful, soulful, and believable, the April 27 performance of Crowns: A Gospel Musical was also both entertaining and engaging – a truly spiritual experience that left me with goosebumps and a better understanding of African-American head adornments.

What would happen if you invited a friend over to listen to an original Broadway cast album? You’d probably turn it on and imagine the show in your head, inserting your opinions about what was going on as you listened. That is exactly what you will get from attending Augustana College's production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

With the popularity of television series such as Downton Abbey and The Crown, contemporary audiences have become intrigued by, even addicted to, European aristocracy. I can’t help but think that in comparison to the many works of William Shakespeare, our obsession with binge-worthy TV must be like attending live theatre over 400 years ago. Take, for example, the twisted path of dysfunction, poor leadership, and random acts of stupidity as illustrated in Shakespeare’s tug-of-war tale King John.

Pages