Bravo to the Mississippi Bend Players for magnificently transporting patrons back in time – back to when Huckleberry Finn (Quinn Rigg) and his humble slave companion Jim (LaRon Grant) traveled along the banks of the Mississippi River on a meager log raft – in the powerful musical Big River. Friday's opening-night performance at Augustana College's Brunner Theatre Center was simply stunning, with the entire cast reminding me why I love the fine arts.

There’s a new band in town – and they’re only around for two more nights. It’s Hedwig & the Angry Inch, and the Circa '21 Speakeasy is the perfect venue for a show that is simply a rock concert. With just enough Quad City references thrown in to make it seem like an actual tour, Hedwig (Anthony Natarelli) and her band (Kyle Jecklin on bass, Peter Letendre on drums, and Ben Kays on guitar) take you on a captivating musical recollection of the headliner's life.

Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday was a Broadway hit in 1946, and while the subject matter holds up 72 years later, it isn’t strictly necessary that it does. While there are some parallels to be drawn from the Timber Lake Playhouse’s production and today’s society, the audience at Friday night’s performance didn’t seem to dwell on them, as director Chuck Smith put forth a straightforward comedy that elicited some chuckles but probably not intense political discussions.

A classic stage work that, according to the New York Times, is “rich in poetic imagery” while demonstrating that “even for the Greek gods, what goes around comes around,” Aeschylus' Greek tragedy Prometheus Bound serves as the latest production in Gensius Guild's 2018 season, its June 30 through July 8 presentation enacted by a cast of 16 and with its chief characters performing in period-appropriate masks.

Every summer, the Quad Cities is blessed with an extensive live-theatre scene, and the months are crowded with show after show. Many of them are epic or extravagant productions such as Mame, The Marriage of Figaro, Beauty & the Beast, The Bridges of Madison Country, The Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ Superstar and those are just examples from the first half of June.

But then there are the smaller, more intimate ones. Presentations of works that you’ve maybe never heard of. Things that sound interesting but are overshadowed by bigger, more well-known titles. Shows such as the Black Box Theatre’s musical offering Baby – which may well prove to be the sweetest, most heartfelt, and most authentic musical you’ll see all season long.

At Friday night's final dress rehearsal of Genesius Guild's As You Like It, there were instances in which performers were forced to overcome numerous distractions from around the park. The distant sounds of children on the playground, a flock of birds singing their twilight song, an occasional motorcycle passing by … even the noise of a rushing freight train from the bottom of the hill.

One could make the case that these distractions would lessen the overall enjoyability of this Shakespeare production. But I found the opposite to be the case, for they reminded me that this is public theatre at its finest – an opportunity for all to come and enjoy classical theatre no matter the emptiness of their pockets (though donations are gratefully accepted), and even if performed in the sweltering mid-June heat, by actors with true love for and dedication to the art.

Life is tricky with Trixie, considering she’s a toddler who communicates only in gestures and gibberish. Such is the premise of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse’s absolutely delightful children’s show Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.

Opening the company's second season with a Broadway hit that won seven Tony Awards and nine Drama Desk Awards, the Mississippi Bend Players bring life on the Mississippi to stage-musical life in the June 22 through July 1 presentation Big River, a Mark Twain adaptation praised by the Hollywood Reporter for its “tuneful score” and “episodic storyline that flows as smoothly as the Mississippi River.”

Lauded by Rolling Stone as “the first musical to truly rock” and the winner of four Tony Awards, the theatrical sensation Hedwig & the Angry Inch will be staged in a special three-performance run at the Circa '21 Speakeasy June 23 through 30, its electrifying glam-rock atmosphere inspiring Entertainment Weekly to call the show “groundbreaking and undoubtedly ahead of its time.”

The late, great author and humorist Nora Ephron famously shared this piece of advice for women: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” That message will also be shared in New Ground Theatre's June 22 through 24 presentation of Nora and Delia Ephron's Love, Loss, & What I Wore, a stage serio-comedy that Variety magazine called “a bittersweet meditation on the joys and tribulations of women's lives” and that the Hollywood Reporter deemed “tender and insightful without being sentimental.”

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