When I was in seventh grade, my chorus class took a charter bus up to Chicago to see Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. From a row near the back of the theatre, I watched the vibrant speck that was Donnie Osmond belt out the tunes "Close Every Door" and "Joseph's Coat." On the return trip home, while the chaperone mothers murmured in fascination over the dark-haired leading man, we chorus students amused ourselves with a Joseph sing-along. The music was just that unforgettable and appealing, even to our usually unimpressionable teenage minds.

Just when I was convinced that Picasso at the Lapin Agile would endure as Steve Martin's wittiest, funniest theatre script, the multi-talented writer/actor/comedian has outdone himself, with the adapted comedy The Underpants.

New Ground is one of my favorite local theatre groups because it doesn't settle for slapstick comedies, cliché-filled scripts, or sappy dramas. Instead, the not-for-profit organization with the mission to "bring the best in contemporary and original theatre to the Quad Cities" does superb work living up to that goal. New Ground's upcoming show, Talley's Folly, the recipient of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for drama, is certainly no exception to the "best theatre" rule and is perhaps one of the most unconventional, intriguing love stories I've ever seen on stage. The production opens August 26 and runs through September 5 at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf.

Richmond Hill Players Theatre has done a very good thing. Instead of usual attempts to "wow" audiences with edgy (and, in my opinion, too brilliantly written for community theatre) scripts such as Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile or efforts to appeal to the older generation with shows such as On Golden Pond and Driving Miss Daisy, the organization's current production of Desk Set settles contentedly into a much-needed middle ground.

Kindertransport is a script full of potential. Unfortunately, on the Playcrafters stage on May 8, the meaning of the play got lost somewhere in the muddle of forgotten lines and lifeless delivery. Directed by Charles Rubovits, Kindertransport (continuing through May 23) is definitely a change for Playcrafters Barn Theatre, which usually sticks to scripts in the adult comedy or mystery genres. I'm glad to see the group stepping out of its usual lighthearted mode into drama, but a lot of elements need improvement before plays such as Kindertransport will be taken seriously.

I always love seeing the plays at Augustana College for the acting skill, detailed and appropriate set designs, and beautifully constructed costumes and props. The musical Quilters - which finishes a two-week run this weekend - is no exception, with an ensemble of seven vocally talented women, live keyboard and fiddle players, and an elaborate display of at least 30 quilts hand-made by Augustana students and faculty.

New Ground Theatre's current show, David Schulner's An Infinite Ache, appears to be a conventional love and marriage story. A man and woman meet, fall in love, and get hitched - nothing unusual. But the script is so intricately crafted that we see snapshots of the couple as they progress through a partnership of more than five decades and take on sex, marriage, children, and death - in a mere hour and fifteen minutes. The fast-paced, natural dialogue travels seamlessly through the years, with no specific scene divisions. Time simply progresses.

When leaving Circa '21 last Friday night, I caught glimpses of conversations about Hello Dolly!. One audience member loved it, while another found the show bland and unmemorable. I silently agreed with the latter critic.

Theatre is evolving. While some scripts still relate the story of a unique person or community, it seems more writers are attempting to use representative characters to capture something more universal. These shows often consist of monologues that revolve around a central theme, such as girls' and women's lives in A ... My Name Is Alice and female sexuality in The Vagina Monologues. Sometimes, as in The Vagina Monologues, each component is the result of real-life research and interviews conducted and modified by the playwright.

In 1979, Patti Flaherty starred in Born Yesterday at Playcrafters Barn Theatre in Moline. Unfortunately, I hadn't yet made my earthly appearance and was unable to review it. But 35 years later, she's given me the chance by directing the current production of Yesterday on the same stage. The play is fast-paced if easily foretold, the characters are memorable, and the acting is superb.

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