It was a lovely summer evening at the Timber Lake Playhouse on Friday night, with glowing stringed lights hanging throughout the campground that added a tranquil feeling outside. Inside the theatre, it was equally pleasant, with the welcoming, rustic set design by Sherri Howells providing a fabulous, bluegrass-and-country playing area for the venue's latest musical presentation The Robber Bridegroom.

From August 13 through 22, the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's 2021 Barn Owl Series that began with the venue's June debut of Princeton's Rage continues with another world premiere: The Whistleblower's Dilemma, a dramatic comedy of chicanery, guile, and yoga written by Bettendorf playwright Jim Sederquist.

With the second of its two summertime Shakespeare productions held in Iowa City's Lower City Park, Riverside Theatre delivers one of the Bard's freshest and funniest titles in its August 13 through 22 staging of The Comedy of Errors – a work that esteemed literary critic Harold Bloom said “reveals Shakespeare's magnificence at the art of comedy” and demonstrated “mastery in action, incipient character, and stagecraft.”

Lauded by The New Yorker as “a singular astonishment” and by Variety as “short and sweet and strangely haunting,” the critically acclaimed, Tony-nominated romance Constellations wraps up the 2021 season at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, its August 5 through 14 run demonstrating why the New York Times was inspired to ask, “Who knew that higher physics could be so sexy, so accessible – and so emotionally devastating?”

While Friday’s opening night for Countryside Community Theatre’s production of Newsies: The Musical didn’t completely change my mind about the plot points (why is “Santa Fe” now the opening number?!), director/choreographer Ashley Mills Becher’s version packed big punches of fun and personality that made the night undeniably exciting.

I had the pleasure of attending Friday’s performance of The Mountaintop at the Quad Cities’ newest live-theatre venue, the Mockingbird on Main. Penned by American playwright Katori Hall, this story is a fictional depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his last night on earth, the eve of his assassination. As as directed by Kira Rangel, with production design by Savannah Bay Strandin and Tristan Tapscott, this piece takes patrons into the unique inner struggles of one of the most influential civil-rights leaders of all time.

Boasting a book and lyrics by Oscar and Pulitzer Prize winner Alfred Uhry, and based on a novella literary legend Eudora Welty, the Tony Award-winning musical The Robber Bridegroom, from August 5 through 15, serves as the latest summer presentation at Mt. Carroll's Timber Lake Playhouse, the show praised by the New York Times for its “rambunctious rhythms … visual wit, and gleefully macabre gags.”

Lauded by the Wall Street Journal as “charming and dramatically persuasive,” and by the New York Daily News as “a valentine to the wonder and weirdness of love,” the 2014 Tony Award nominee for Best Play Outside Mullingar opens the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's long-awaited 2021 season, the show's August 5 through 15 run – the Geneseo company's first new show since 2019 – sure to demonstrate why the New York Times called it a work of “lyrical writing” and “consistent pleasure.”

Winner of five 2013 Tony Awards and London's record-holder for the most Olivier Awards ever won by a musical, the Broadway smash Matilda: The Musical continues Quad City Music Guild's summer of live performances at Moline's Prospect Park Auditorium, its August 6 through 15 run treating family audiences to a delightful entertainment that the New York Times called “an exhilarating tale of empowerment” told with “astonishing slyness and grace.”

This 2005 show set in Minnesota in the mid-'60s, has inspired such a ravenous fandom that there are now seven related musicals in this series. The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse has produced some of them – one just this spring. Yet somehow, I'd so far escaped these ladies' clutches. I'm here to tell you I was clutched, but good, at Thursday's opening-night performance at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre.