Winner of three 2009 Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the wildly acclaimed Broadway hit Next to Normal receives its debut staging at Moline's Black Box Theatre August 9 through 18, the New York Times raving that this pop/rock musical “throbs with an emotional intensity” and “is steeped in an inescapable, aching compassion for people crippled by pain.”

Saturday night's performance of Thesmophoriazusae was a bit like the talent show at the end of summer camp. Featuring a lot of inside jokes, jabs at society as a whole, and many familiar faces, director Bob Hanske’s production serves as the wacky capstone to Genesius Guild’s summer of entertainment in Lincoln Park.

W.C. Fields was famously quoted as saying, “Never work with children or animals,” probably because they're scene-stealing and completely unpredictable. And they certainly were, in the best way, when Thursday's opening-night performance of composer Lionel Bart's Oliver! played to a sold-out crowd at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre. At the show's start, dozens of exceptionally talented children, playing half-starved orphans, stormed the stage with empty bowls in their hands singing “Food, Glorious Food,” and this classic tale of struggle and hardship was immediately delivered with skilled, scene-stealing, completely unpredictable song-and-dance performances.

An intimidating green ogre, a feisty pricess, a wisecracking donkey, a diminutive tyrant, an ambulatory gingerbread man, and other fantastical figures take over Moline's Prospect Park Auditorium when Quad City Musis Guild presents its August 3 through 12 run of Shrek: The Musical, the Tony Award-winning fairytale slapstick based on the Oscar-winning animated smash, and a show USA Today called “a triumph of comic imagination with a heart as big and warm as Santa's.”

Concluding their 2018 season with a world premiere at Augustana College, the Mississippi Bend Players will, from August 3 through 12, stage a collaboration between an Emmy-nominated writer/producer and a Broadway-veteran director: the pitfalls-of-show-business comedy Beginner's Luck, written by noted sitcom scribe P.J. Lasker (The Golden Girls, Barney Miller) and directed by the Great White Way's Philip Wm. McKinley (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, The Boy from Oz).

Does a wild hellhound prowl the moors of Devonshire? Leave it to the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes (Alex Rudd) and his distinguished assistant Dr. Watson (Max Bahneman) to solve this legendary case of an alleged curse in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Timber Lake Playhouse. In a totally marvelous theatrical display of talent and special effects, Saturday’s matinée performance was one of the best non-musical productions I’ve seen in a long time.

Verbal comedy, physical slapstick, madcap chases, and a bunch of pop-culture and area-culture references will close 2018's theatrical season in Lincoln Park when Genesius Guild stages its revival of Thesmophoriazusae July 28 through August 5, Aristophanes' Greek-comedy classic getting a significant makeover with a new script, and new jokes, by Guild founder Don Wooten.

The winner of England's Evening Standard Award for Best Play and a work described as “stunning” by the New York Times, playwright Caryl Churchill's provocative cloning drama A Number will be staged locally July 27 and 28, this latest production in the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Barn Owl Series described by the Daily Telegraph as “moving, thought-provoking, and thrilling.”

A real-life confession: I typically spend Sunday evenings at home watching Netflix, so spending it in Lincoln Park with Genesius Guild's production of The Merchant of Venice was a refreshing change. While it is known as one of William Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” and I would agree with that assessment, this performance was still a great way to forget thinking about Monday.

A disappearing body, missing evidence, blood on a chair, and a pursuing investigation – so goes the spirited comedy BusyBody, written by Jack Popplewell and directed by Joe DePauw. Sunday’s matinée performance at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre was rife with lively slapstick and subtle humor, taking us into the world of Mrs. Piper (Jackie Skiles), a spunky office cleaning lady who has stumbled her way into a murder mystery.

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