I'm probably too old to go to the mall this December and sit on Santa's lap and tell him what I want for Christmas. (Cue the chorus of "Probably?!?") But if I did, as a huge fan of the local stage scene, I'd say that I really wanted a winter filled with plentiful and diverse theatrical options: musicals, dramas, comedies, dance presentations, family offerings, seasonal titles, a Tony winner here, a Pulitzer Prize winner there ... and if he also wanted to throw a Shakespeare or two into the mix, that'd be fine with me.
Well, look whose wish is coming true!
Were I to be more specific in my wishing, I'd likely also ask for stagings of two of my favorite American classics, Our Town and Of Mice & Men, and lo and behold, that one would've come true, too. (I must've been really good this year, huh, Santa?) Under Bryan Tank's direction, the Distinct Theatre will present Thornton Wilder's Our Town (running January 24 through February 8), the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about life, love, and death - themes explored in roughly that order - in a sleepy New Hampshire burg. And two weeks prior to that show's arrival, Playcrafters Barn Theatre will celebrate opening night for its production of director Tristan Tapscott's Of Mice & Men (January 10 through 19), the iconic John Steinbeck tale of ranch hands struggling through the Great Depression. Don't get too attached to the mouse. (Fun local-theatre fact: The District Theatre staged Of Mice & Men in 2009, and Playcrafters produced Our Town in 2006. Additionally fun local-theatre fact: Playcrafters director Tapscott is the District Theatre's artistic director. So much cross-over, so little time!)
More drama is on the horizon in another of my favorites: The Laramie Project, which St. Ambrose University will stage February 21 through 23. Adapted, by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, from actual conversations held with residents of Laramie, Wyoming, the play explores the 1998 killing of gay teen Matthew Shepard, and the subject of homosexuality - plus the subjects of religion, faith, family, and loss - will also be prevalent in New Ground Theatre's dramatic comedy Next Fall (January 24 through February 2). Directed by Christina Myatt, this Tony Award nominee for Best Play by author Geoffrey Nauffts follows a gay couple's relationship over a five-year period, and offers insight into how modern mores - plus a debilitating accident - affect a longtime romance.
Those seeking additional romance, to say nothing of sure-to-be-exceptional dancing, will find plenty in Ballet Quad Cities' Scottish Rite Cathedral stagings of Carmen (February 14 and 15), with its music taken from George Bizet's timeless opera, and its storyline involving the tragic love triangle among the temperamental Don José, the bullfighter Escamillo, and the doomed free spirit of the title. (Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!) If, however, you're also looking for some singing to go with your dancing, fear not - the Quad Cities will provide! Davenport's Adler Theatre, in fact, has three stage musicals lined up this winter through the venue's Broadway at the Adler series: the ABBA-rific pop party that is Mamma Mia! (December 17), the Tony Award-winning, Green Day-inspired rock extravaganza American Idiot (January 8), and the singing, dancing, and altogether-ooky fun of The Addams Family (February 11). The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, meanwhile, brings back one of its most popular titles with the return of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (January 15 through March 8), which details the '50s-pop icon's unlikely rise to stardom via scenes - frequently hilarious ones - from Holly's life and an electrifying closing concert.
Fun of a more Elizabethan nature will no doubt be on hand in the Prenzie Players' presentation of William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona (December 6 through 14), the mad comedy of friendship and romance - and the Bard's first attempt at a cross-dressing character! - that director Andy Lord will stage at Davenport's QC Theatre Workshop. (It's technically not a winter show, but if you're up for even more Shakespeare, the District Theatre's The Tempest, directed by Chris Causer, is running November 15 through 24.) The Workshop venue, I'm excited to say, will also house its company's forthcoming production of Sam Shepard's True West (February 21 through March 9), the warring-brothers comedy, directed by Tyson Danner, that will find Jeremy Mahr and myself swapping roles throughout the run based on the results of nightly coin tosses. And a previous Workshop endeavor gets a second 2013 go-around when Augustana College produces A Green River (December 11 through 15), the returning-solider drama by local author Aaron Randolph III. Like the play's summertime incarnation, Augie's production will feature Thomas Alan Taylor as tormented lead Erik White, but this time with the actor and his co-stars working for Philip Wm. McKinley, director of Broadway's Tony-winning The Boy from Oz and creative consultant for the current Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
The ever-busy Randolph also has a musical on the wintertime schedule, with his new adaptation of the beloved Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (February 15 through 23) performed by students of Davenport Junior Theatre. Another literary great - Rudyard Kipling this time - will be showcased in another stage adventure for family audiences, when director Dino Hayz and his Center for Living Arts present their Baloo-tiful take on The Jungle Book (December 6 and 7). And little kids can have a blast when the older kids of St. Ambrose present the holiday musical comedy Toy Camp (December 7 and 8). I listened to a few of the show's songs online and urge you to do the same; "I Go to Pieces," sung by two ambulatory sections of a jigsaw puzzle, is gonna slay ya.
But Toy Camp is hardly the wrap-up to the theatrical Christmas presents for area audiences. Prior to Buddy - and in addition to the currently running Tony nominee and film adaptation A Christmas Story: The Musical (through January 5) - Circa '21 will celebrate the season with director Brad Hauskins' A Fairy Tale Christmas (November 29 through December 28), a family musical comedy that finds Snow White, Cinderella, and other such characters preparing for the Crystal Christmas Ball. (And it sounds like a ball.) The District Theatre offers its second-annual take on A Christmas Carol (December 6 through 15), an original adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic written by local authors/musicians Tristan Tapscott and Danny White.
Speaking of annual stage entertainments, it wouldn't be the holidays in the Quad Cities without the eagerly anticipated return of Ballet Quad Cities' The Nutcracker (December 14 and 15), with the company's professional talents lending visual wonder to Tchaikovsky's unforgettable score. And leave it to Quad City Music Guild to wrap the holiday season up with a bow in its debut of the seasonal revue A Christmas Survival Guide (December 5 through 8), with director John Weigandt and his six-person cast celebrating - through song, dance, comedy, and sentiment - the most stressful time of year. But you probably shouldn't expect too much sentiment. On the musical's CD, among the first words heard are: "Attention shoppers! There are now only 174 shopping days until Christmas! Happy Fourth of July!" We laugh because it's funny, and we laugh because it's true.
For more information on the area's winter-theatre options in the Quad Cities and surrounding regions, visit RCReader.com/y/theatre.