the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Irving Berlin's White ChristmasIf you're new to this almost-annual recap, what follows is my conversation with Reader theatre reviewer Thom White about the area's stage stage over the past 12 months.

If you're not new to it, you know the drill. Clear some time, grab a snack, and enjoy!

Ballet Quad Cities' The Nutcracker, at the Adler TheatreAs someone who's been privileged to write about local theatre for nearly 10 years now, I can't begin to describe the sheer tonnage* of correspondence I've amassed from people who are curious about upcoming area stage productions. Please allow me, then, this attempt at answering all your questions about the forthcoming winter-theatre season through just a few of the hundreds** of letters, e-mails, and texts I've recently received on this subject***.


*Perhaps an exaggeration.

**Definitely an exaggeration.

***Some of which I may have made up.

Lauren VanSpeybroeck, courtesy of Nick West PhotographyAs with many things in life, it can be blamed on a friendly purple dinosaur.

"It was third grade," says actor Marc Ciemiewicz, recalling his stage debut. "I went to Catholic school, and it was the Christmas pageant, and I was given the solo for my class - 'I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas.' And my mom, to this day, still tells the story of the gentleman in the audience who tried to give me a standing ovation ... but his wife pulled him back down."

ensemble members in Davenport Junior Theatre's 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaFans of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - either the novel or 1954's live-action Disney movie - should be excited to attend Davenport Junior Theatre's debuting stage version of the adventure classic, running February 15 through 23. Just as long, says playwright Aaron Randolph III, as those 20,000 Leagues fans aren't also 20,000 Leagues purists.

Cara Chumbley, Lora Adams, Brad Hauskins, and Rachelle Walljasper in Things My Mother Taught MeAnother year of area stage productions has come and gone, and wanting to try something different this December, Reader theatre reviewer Thom White and I thought we'd bypass our traditional, end-of-year postmortem in favor of an alternate approach: requesting 100-words-or-fewer submissions from our readers on what people found particularly memorable about the 2013 stage scene. "It'll be something new!" we thought. "It'll be exciting! It'll be filled with fresh voices that aren't ours!" And, I must admit, we were dazzled with the overall response.

Well, "dazzled" may be overstating it.

Hmmm ... what's the word I'm looking for ... ?

"Mortified," maybe ... ?

Chris Castle, Jennifer Sondgeroth, Tom Naab, Faith Hardacre, and Zach Hendershott in A Christmas Survival GuideSitting down with director John Weigandt, assistant director Jaci Weigandt (John's wife), and cast members Faith Hardacre and Jennifer Sondgeroth prior to a Tuesday-night rehearsal for Quad City Music Guild's A Christmas Survival Guide, I mention that this forthcoming show seemed like a rather unusual choice for the organization's wintertime slot.

"What?" asks Hardacre with mock surprise. "We don't normally have drunken dances on stage?"

American Idiot, at the Adler TheatreI'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!

T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp, and Stephen KingStephen King. John Mellencamp. T Bone Burnett.

Three instantly recognizable names. Three iconic artists with enormous fan bases and lengthy lists of professional accomplishments. And, taken together, three of the last people you might expect to find collaborating on a musical for the stage.

Memphis at the Adler Theatre and Peoria Civic CenterStephen King, Agatha Christie, the Headless Horseman, Dracula, Medusa, Witches, Murder, Horror, Ghost Brothers ... . Halloween's more than two months away, and our area's fall-theatre lineup is already freaking me out.