Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse
Wednesday, January 15, through Saturday, March 5
He was born and raised in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House. His horribly disfigured face is hidden behind a mask. He meets a beautiful singer named Christine and becomes her music tutor. He falls in love with the girl and shows her his face, at which point she recoils in horror. He goes on a crazed rampage. He becomes the scourge of Parisian society. And his name is well known to you all. He is, of course ... Erik.
Granted, Erik does have a more familiar alias: the Phantom of the Opera. But in author Gaston Leroux's original 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, the title character is indeed called Erik - a name, the man reveals, that he found "by accident" during his subterranean upbringing. But it's no accident that he's also referred to as Erik in author Arthur Kopit's and composer Maury Yeston's musical adaptation Phantom, which runs at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse January 15 through March 5. As opposed to Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed, chandelier-dropping take on the tale, Kopit's and Yeston's critically acclaimed 1991 work accentuates the humanity of its famed "monster," creating a musically rich, deeply moving production that the Chicago Sun-Times called "one of those musicals you thought they just didn't write anymore."
Receiving a Circa '21 revival for the first time since the show's hugely successful 1993 run, Phantom follows Leroux's central narrative, with the Phantom - a.k.a. Erik - loathing the vocal screech of opera diva Carlotta and whisking the lovely Christine to his underground lair. But you'll also find far more comedy, tension, and character complexity than you may remember from the novel and Webber versions, courtesy of book writer Kopit (a Tony nominee for Nine) and composer/lyricist Yeston (a Tony winner for Titanic).
With visiting actors Patrick Beasley and Emily Stokes making their Quad Cities debuts as Erik and Christine, respectively, veteran Circa '21 director Seth Reines has assembled an excellent ensemble for his production, the familiar area talents including John Payonk, Tom Walljasper, Tristan Tapscott, Kevin Grastorf, Sara Tubbs, Chris Galván, Ben Cramer, and Gage McCalester.
And as Phantom's reviews make clear, they're going to have exceptional material to work with. The New York Times raved about the show's "rhapsodic music that entrances, moves, and haunts." The Dallas Morning News deemed in "one of the most appealing American musicals of recent years." Meanwhile, the San Diego Union wrote that this Phantom "jerks enough tears to fill that Paris Opera Lagoon." So plan on a wonderfully moving experience. And plan on bringing a life jacket. Just in case.
For more information on, and tickets to, Kopit's and Yeston's Phantom, call (309)786-7733 extension 2 or visit Circa21.com.
i wireless Center
Thursday, January 14, 7:30 p.m.
"Thanks for making time to see me, doc."
"I only have a couple minutes, Mike. What was so urgent?"
"You have to help me understand this dream I had."
"Not again ... ."
"This one was really weird, doc. I'm with this sweet little somethin' in this nothin' town - this two-night town at most. And it's my kinda party, with two damn good friends staring at the sun, and we laughed until we cried when she says, 'Baby, tonight looks good on you. This hicktown gonna know we were here! Damn it, we're gonna leave tattoos on this town!'"
"I mean, you know ... she's country. And relentless. And when she talks about burnin' it down - this crazy town with the night train - you know she's speakin' the truth."
"Yeah, I see what's going on here - ."
"But then, when we're just gettin' started, Johnny Cash shows up! He's singin' some drivin'-around song, and when he sees us, he says, 'How'd you like to take a little ride on my big green tractor?' I ask, 'Why?' He says, 'It's the only way I know to get from the fly-over states to that Amarillo sky.' And just as we climb on and begin whistling this dirt road anthem ... I wake up."
"So what does it mean?"
"We go through this all the time, Mike. Obviously, your mind is on work - and I'm guessing one of the things you have to work on is an article about Jason Aldean's January 14 concert at Moline's i wireless Center."
"That's amazing! How did you know?"
"Well, it's big news that the country singer is coming, of course. He's a multi-platinum-seller with 14 number-one singles to his name. He's been nominated for four Grammy Awards. He's won six ACM Awards and four Billboard Music Awards. He's been a hugely popular touring and recording artist for 10 years running."
"Of course ... !"
"And in under a minute, you managed to name-check the titles of 28 Jason Aldean songs. So you just might have Aldean on the brain. Now I really have to leave ... ."
"Don't you wanna stay?"
"That's 29 songs."
"I don't do lonely well ... ."
"Thirty. Time to go, Mike. And I really do need you to pay for all these sessions. Here's what you owe."
"Yes. And that's 31."
Jason Aldean performs locally with opening sets by Thomas Rhett and A Thousand Horses, and tickets are available by calling (800)745-3000 or visiting iwirelessCenter.com.
Arsenic & Old Lace
Playcrafters Barn Theatre
Friday, January 8, through Sunday, January 17
Arsenic & Old Lace runs at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre January 8 through 17, and I, for one, couldn't be happier that the Moline venue is opening its 2016 season with Joseph Kesselring's beloved 1941 farce. Not only was it a show I performed (and loved performing) in high school, but Kesselring's leading characters - two sweet, solicitous ladies of a certain age - always remind me of my late grandmothers: eternally cheerful, always busy in the kitchen, prone to knocking off elderly gentlemen with poisonous cocktails ... .
All right, so the leads aren't exactly like my grandmothers. But Kesselring's cheerfully dark comedy - still one of the longest-running plays in Broadway history - is a stage production that can be easily enjoyed by grandparents and grandchildren alike, and continues to prove the New York Times' 1941 review correct when author Brooks Atkinson called Arsenic & Old Lace "so funny that none of us will ever forget it."
Like the era's similarly adored You Can't Take It with You, Kesselring's entertainment concerns an unconventional clan with a young protagonist eager to marry. But whereas the former found Alice Sycamore leery about introducing beau Tony to her houseful of charming eccentrics, Arsenic gives Mortimer Brewster even greater reasons for "meet the family" fear. Brother Teddy thinks he's actually Teddy Roosevelt, and busies himself in the cellar digging locks for the Panama Canal. Brother Jonathan is a recent escapee from an insane asylum who resembles Boris Karloff. And spinster aunts Abby and Martha have taken to "sympathetically" murdering lonely old men with their special mixtures of arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide.
The slapstick zaniness that results has delighted audiences for more than 70 years, and for Arsenic's Playcrafters incarnation, director Donna Weeks has assembled a sensational cast of gifted performers led by local favorites Patti Flaherty and Susan Perrin-Sallak as Abby and Martha. Their co-stars include Eric Landuyt, Gregory Braid, Mattie Gelaude, Jason Dlouhy, Bob Hanske, Scott Tunnicliff, Bill Peiffer, Sara Laufer, Bill Bates, and Tom Safford, all of whom are set to give new life to this theatrical mainstay.
But how well-acquainted are you with the mainstay? Let's find out through this Arsenic & Old Lace quiz courtesy of the collective smartypants at FunTrivia.com:
1) With what kind of wine do the aunts blend their homemade poison?
2) Where does Abby hide the body of her victim Mr. Hoskins?
A) the window seat
B) the closet
C) the cellar
3) What kind of doctor is Jonathan's ally Dr. Einstein?
C) plastic surgeon
4) What does the staircase represent to Teddy?
A) the Oval Office
B) Custer's Last Stand
C) San Juan Hill
5) What is Mortimer's profession?
C) theatre critic
Arsenic & Old Lace runs at Playcrafters on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., and more information and tickets are available by calling (309)762-0330 or visiting Playcrafters.com.
Answers: 1 - B, 2 - A, 3 - C, 4 - B, 5 - C. And why Jonathan would want to kill Mortimer, I'll never know. I mean, I'm an occasional theatre critic, too, and no one's ever felt like killing m- ... . Never mind.
What Else Is Happenin' ...?
Friday, January 8 - Rude Punch. Rock and reggae musicians in concert, with opening sets by Drama Major and MC Squared. The Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport). 8 p.m. $8 at the door. For information, call (563)326-1333 or visit RiverMusicExperience.org.
Friday, January 8 - Sunshine & Brad Unplugged. An evening of acoustic classic-rock and country songs with Circa '21 performers Sunshine Ramsey and Brad Hauskins. Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse (1828 Third Avenue, Rock Island). 7 p.m. $15-18. For tickets and information, call (309)786-7733 extension 2 or visit Circa21.com.
Friday, January 15 - Cornmeal. Concert with the touring roots and folk ensemble, with an opening set by The Last Revel. The Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport). 9 p.m. $11.50-13.75. For information, call (563)326-1333 or visit RiverMusicExperience.org.
Friday, January 15 - Land of Blood & Sunshine. Record-release party with the independent musicians from Marshalltown, Iowa, with opening sets by Condor & Jaybird and Idpyramid. Rozz-Tox (2108 Third Avenue, Rock Island). 9 p.m. $10. For information, call (309)200-0978 or visit RozzTox.com.
Friday, January 15 - Bucktown Revue. A celebration of Mississippi River Valley culture through music, storytelling, poetry and humor; with emcee Scott Tunnicliff and special guests. Nighswander Theatre (2822 Eastern Avenue, Davenport). 7 p.m. $13 at the door. For information, call (563)940-0508 or visit BucktownRevue.com.
Saturday, January 16 - Joseph Hall's Elvis Rock 'n' Roll Remember. Tribute concert with the touring Presley impersonator. Ohnward Fine Arts Center (1215 East Platt Street, Maquoketa). 7 p.m. $13-25. For tickets and information, call (563)652-9815 or visit OhnwardFineArtsCenter.com.
Sunday, January 17 - Coleman Harris Quartet. Singer/songwriter Harris performs with Edgar Crockett, Jim Betts, and Wayne Allen in Polyrhythms' Third Sunday Jazz Workshop & Matinée Series. The Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport). 3 p.m. jazz workshop: $5 for adults, free for kids. 6 p.m. concert: $10-15. For information, call (309)373-0790 or visit Polyrhythms.org or RiverMusicExperience.org.
Friday, January 8 - The After Hour. Andrew King hosts a late-night talk show with area guests. Circa '21 Speakeasy (1818 Third Avenue). 10:30 p.m. $8-10. For tickets and information, call (309)786-7733 extension 2 or visit Circa21.com.
Sunday, January 10 - Rozz-Talk: Dan Bush. Comedian Bobby Ray Bunch hosts an evening with the co-owner of Davenport's Analog Arcade Bar. 8 p.m. Free. For information, call (309)200-0978 or visit RozzTox.com.
Thursday, January 14 - Eula Biss. Readings and discussion with the author of On Immunity: An Inoculation, Notes from No Man's Land, and The Balloonists in the college's "River Readings" series. Augustana College's Wallenberg Hall (3520 Seventh Avenue, Rock Island). 7 p.m. Free. For information, visit Augustana.edu/arts.
Saturday, January 9 - The Original Harlem Globetrotters. Slapstick comedy and athletic feats with the legendary basketball team. i wireless Center (1201 River Drive, Moline). 7 p.m. $21.50-98.50. For tickets, call (800)745-3000 or visit iwirelessCenter.com.
Saturday, January 9, through Monday, February 29 - A River Runs Thru Us. Mississippi River-themed exhibit featuring works by Art Collective members Naidine D'Angelo, Rose Moore, Patricia Halverson, Jay Stratton, Amy Nielsen, Bill Wohlford, Sheryl Lammers, Andi Naab, Bonnie Grebner, Lori Miller, Brent Langley, and Judy O. Gray. MidCoast Gallery West (1629 Second Avenue, Rock Island). 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Opening reception: January 9, 6 p.m. Free. For information, visit MidCoast.org.
Friday, January 8, through Sunday, January 10 - Bald Eagle Days. Annual weekend event co-presented by the Quad City Audubon Society featuring presentations, displays, bald-eagle viewings, and more. QCCA Expo Center (2621 Fourth Avenue, Rock Island). Friday 4-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $1-6, kids under six free. For information, call (309)788-5912 or visit QCCAExpoCenter.com.
Saturday, January 9 - Bottom's Up Quad City Burlesque: A Midwinter's Madness. Traditional burlesque and vaudeville entertainment with the area artists and emcee Joshua Kahn. Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse (1828 Third Avenue, Rock Island). 8 p.m. $16-18. For tickets and information, call (309)786-7733 extension 2 or visit Circa21.com.