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Quad-Cities artists and audiences alike are hungry to return to live, indoor, in-person shows, and the Adler Theatre Foundation is filling the need – a varied series of six performances over six weeks, starting May 8.

Rick Palmer, executive of the Adler and RiverCenter, said Thursday that they not only wanted to bring in national touring artists, but give local performers the opportunity to open for most of the dates.

He collaborated with resident companies, Ballet Quad Cities and Quad City Symphony Orchestra, as well as with Quad City Arts and River Music Experience, to showcase a diverse lineup of genres — from ballet to rock to magic.

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Ballet Quad Cities will bring its popular Ravel’s “Bolero” to the Adler stage.

“We’re trying to help support our partners, like the River Music Experience, trying to help them get programming,” Palmer said. Though the Adler Foundation has been around since the mid-1980s, this series is new, he noted.

“The foundation has been involved with us every year, but we wanted to make sure people knew where the support for this was coming from,” he said. “They made the commitment for finding programming, and it’s greatly appreciated. The artists we’ve got are so talented.”

For Q-C area performers, the new series is “something they can add to their resume, helps to hopefully expose them to fans that don’t even know they’re fans yet,” Palmer said. “It helps them to continue to grow their fan base, get their exposure out there.”

The Adler Theatre Foundation was founded as a non-profit corporation in 1986, to help fund the 1931 Adler’s renovation from an RKO movie house to its 1986 reopening.

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Rick Palmer is executive director of the Adler Theatre/RiverCenter.

Its purposes are to receive and maintain funds, and to use, administer and apply its net income from those exclusively to defray the costs of obtaining musical, artistic, literary or other educational performances to be presented at the Adler Theatre. The Foundation also makes grants to non-profit organizations with 501(c)(3) status.

It helped raise money for the Adler’s $15-million renovation in 2005-06, which  included expansion of the stage, addition of a loading dock and improvements in sound, lighting, rigging, dressing rooms and elevators.

The RiverCenter/Adler Theatre, a City of Davenport facility managed by VenuWorks, is a 100,000-square foot multiple-use facility that includes two large exhibit halls, 10 breakout rooms, executive boardroom and the historic Art Deco Adler Theatre.

“They’ve always been a strong supporter of the theater in whatever role they can play,” Palmer said of the foundation. “Since the renovation, they’ve been giving us grants each year, helping in programming efforts, so we have a cushion.”

The new 2021 series (tickets go on sale Friday, April 16) is comprised of:

Ballet Quad Cities with special guest Mo Carter

Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 2 p.m. | Tickets: $25

QCSO Trio: Music of Appalachia with special guest Aaron Fullan

Saturday, May 29, 2021 at 8 p.m. | Tickets: $25

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Alan Sweet of Davenport heads All Sweat Productions.

Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves and The Nielsen Trust with special guest All Sweat Productions

Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 7 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $34, $42

The Magic of Bill Blagg LIVE

Friday, June 4, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $29, $36, $42

Amythyst Kiah with special guests Ashley Dean and Soultru

Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $27, $32

Walter Trout with special guest Avey Grouws Band

Friday, June 18, 2021 at 8 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $27, $32

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Kate Dale is director of entertainment at RME.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with the Adler and have worked with them over the years on a few smaller events, but this is our first run of true show partnerships with them,” Kate Dale, RME’s director of entertainment, said Thursday. “So when Rick called and asked is to be involved this this series, we were very excited to collaborate.

“I think after the year we’ve had, everyone in the entertainment industry is eager to get back to work,” Dale said. “And

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

River Music Experience is among the Q-C partners that worked with the Adler Theatre to program the series.

while we’re all ready and willing, there’s that element of being safely able to do so. The Redstone Room is small enough that limiting capacity doesn’t make sense for us, we need to be able to be back 100% to make it work.

“With the Adler, they are large enough where they can limit capacity with pod seating, and still make the venue feel full and do so safely. So being able to be a part of helping bring live music back to our community sooner than we are able to (at Redstone, indoors), is really valuable.

“It was great to work with Rick on band ideas for these shows, and being able to offer local bands some of the opening slots is huge,” she said. “It was equally important to us to get some of our locally based musicians back to work as it was to bring in touring artists; no sector of the entertainment industry has been left unscathed from this pandemic, so it’s great that we’re able to all join forces to get bands back on stage and fans in seats.


“We’re really looking forward to hearing cheers from the crowd and live music once again,” she added.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this Adler Theatre series contributing to the re-awakening of our vibrant Quad-Cities live music scene,” said QCSO executive director Brian Baxter. “The Adler Theatre is a vital partner of ours and serves as the Iowa home of our orchestra, so it is wonderful to be able to contribute to this series led by the Adler Theatre Foundation.”

Local performers relish the opportunity

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

In December 2019, Fullan won a national “Star Wars” superfan contest, from, out of nearly 10,000 entrants.

Aaron Fullan, a 31-year-old film composer and actor in Clinton, Iowa, is thrilled to have the chance to perform on the Adler stage. Though he’s never actually seen a live show there, Fullan was just at the theater Tuesday to have new photos done for his website,

“I thought a theater would be an ideal place to do that, and one as beautiful as the Adler,” he said Thursday. “I had asked Rick and didn’t have high hopes I could get in. He said sure, and a day or two later, he emails, saying this is not related to your photos, but he had listened to my stuff, and he thought it would be a great fit for our foundation series, and he asked if I would be willing to do 45 to 60 minutes.”

Fullan was a piano performance major at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, and his theme for the May 29 concert will be movie music. He’ll play some selections from what he considers the greatest film scores, including his own favorite, the prolific John Williams (such as from “Schindler’s List”).

“I’ll tell stories behind film scoring,” Fullan said. “There’s a lot people don’t know; they don’t

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Clinton actor and composer Aaron Fullan outside the Adler, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport.

really know anything about it.”

Though the Adler has been a longtime home for the Q-C Symphony, he didn’t get into symphonic music until college, and went to Dubuque Symphony concerts.

“I always had this respect for the Adler. I’d never been, but knew it had such a rich history,” Fullan said. “This came out of the blue at a really good time, starting this new phase of life. I am so excited.”

He and his wife have four kids (from 10 months to 6 years old), and Fullan has signed with a talent agent in Los Angeles for his acting. He also has signed to provide original music for a popular Christian series called “The Chosen,” based on the life of Christ. It’s on a platform called VidAngel, which just launched its own studio, Angel Studios, and hired Fullan to write new brand music that will appear with the studio logo at the start of all their films and TV series.

“That was huge,” he said. “Being seen by a lot of people, they’re on the verge – it was a good time to get on with them.”

For his concert, the QCSO musicians to perform will be violinist Emily Nash, violist Bruno Vas da Silva, and associate principal bass Kit Polen. They will do some of the pieces they performed Feb. 27 at a Signature Series concert of American music in the Figge Art Museum Grand Lobby.


That includes selections of Edgar Meyer and Mark O’Connor from their 2000 album “Appalachian Journey” (recorded with Yo-Yo Ma), with works influenced by the sounds of American musical traditions and structures.

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Mo Carter of Davenport will open for the ballet show May 8.

Ballet Quad Cities also will bring a popular piece they’ve done at the Figge, to kick off the Adler series May 8 – their dance to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero,” the first time on the Adler stage.

While several choreographers have created ballets to Ravel’s famous composition, BQC artistic director Courtney Lyon’s version is completely original and unusual, according to the company. “Unlike traditional choreography created for a stage, this version of ‘Bolero’ was created to be viewed in the round as if viewing a sculpture in a museum.”

“Five dancers, four chairs and Ravel’s hypnotizing score will make this a living art experience you will never forget,” BQC executive director Joedy Cook said. Also to be performed will be the fun baseball themed “Players,” the jazzy and sophisticated “Sugar Rum Fairy,” the passionate

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Courtney Lyon is artistic director of Ballet Quad Cities.

pas de deux from the ballet “Carmen,” and the sunny and chill “Dream a Little Dream.”

The company’s next major performance will be “Alice in Wonderland” April 30-May 2 at Davenport’s Outing Club.

Opening for them at the Adler May 8 will be Davenport’s own Mo Carter, known for her bold, soulful voice and charismatic live stage presence. Carter is also a member of Mo & Co., The Velies, and previous member of Busted Chandeliers. She’s shared the stage with national acts from Jay Leno to Julia Nunes and Caroline Rose. Bandmate and violinist, Melinda Leasman, will be accompanying Mo on stage for this duo performance.

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

The Quad City Symphony trio Emily Nash, Kit Polen and Bruno Vas da Silva performed at the Figge lobby in late February.

Opening the June 3 show is the popular All Sweat Productions, headed by Davenport’s Alan Sweet. This tribute show will feature some of the greatest hits and deepest cuts from Eric Clapton’s catalog, paying homage to one of the greatest guitarist and musicians of all time.

On June 5, the lineup includes the Q-C’s own Ashley Dean, who has been a backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder (including touring with him around the world).

“No matter the tune, the song of her heart is the same. It’s a song of hope, a song of joy, a song of hope, and a goal for you to experience the same through every note that’s sung,” according to her bio.

That show also includes the Q-C based hip-hop/soul duo Soultru. They’re signed to Kansas City label The Record Machine and blend soul singing and hip-hop verses to make relatable music for all.

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

The Avey Grouws Band will open for Walter Trout on June 18.

The last show in the series – Friday, June 18 — will be very special for the opening act, the Q-C’s Avey Grouws Band, which blends blues, roots and Americana influences. The headliner that night is the world-renowned blues guitarist, singer/songwriter Walter Trout, who last played the Redstone Room in July 2019.

“That’s the show the guys have wanted to play that theater for years and years, and now we finally get the chance with a band we really enjoy,” Jeni Grouws of Avey Grouws Band said

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Things are looking up for Jeni Grouws, as she records a new album recently in Nashville.

Wednesday, from Nashville, Tenn., where they’re recording their next album. (Their first, “The Devil May Care,” hit No. 10 on the Billboard Blues Chart.)

They haven’t played an indoor public show since March 14, 2020, though over the past year the band has done some outdoor and private shows, as well as over 100 livestreamed dates.

Avey Grouws Band returns to touring with a concert Friday, April 23 at 8 p.m. at Rhythm City Casino, Davenport.

Three years after a liver transplant, Trout (who’s now 70) in 2017 released “We’re All in This Together,” that featured guests John Mayall, Joe BonamassaRandy Bachman, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It marked his first number one blues record, and a later one, “Survivor Blues,” a collection of obscure blues covers he considered no less important than the standards, also peaked in the top spot on the Blues Albums chart.

“Light at the end of the tunnel”

While the last year of cancellations and postponed events has been brutal, Rick Palmer said Thursday: “There’s good light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Adler hosted in-person QCSO concerts in March and April, after a Maddie Poppe Christmas show in December, and Friday night (April

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

Ashley Dean, a Rock Island native and St. Ambrose grad, has sung backup for Stevie Wonder.

16) at 8 p.m. has a John Denver tribute show, “A Rocky Mountain High Experience.” That’s with Rick Schuler, considered the leading performer of John Denver’s music.

The RiverCenter has had hosted some dance competitions and mixed-martial arts events, and has a wedding coming up this weekend, Palmer said,

“We’ve seen a lot of shows move toward the fall, and spring of ‘22, coming back,” he said of touring Adler shows. “People have been very patient, sitting on their tickets, just wanting to see the show. We’re working very hard, conversations with agencies across the country have

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

The Adler LED marquee lit up at night.

improved immensely.

“There’s a lot of hope out there – we’re still conscious and concerned that we do it safely, do it right,” he said. “That’s why we have shows in pods, groups the way they are.”

Reserved seat tickets to the 2021 Adler Theatre Foundation Series will go on sale this Friday, April 16 at 10 a.m. in person at the Adler Theatre Box Office (136 E. 3rd St.) and online at

The 2,321-seat Adler currently caps seating at 25-percent capacity and tickets to these socially-distanced events will be sold in pods. Guests must purchase all tickets in a selected pod. A face covering is required

Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series

The 2,321-seat Adler has been operating at 25-percent capacity due to Covid.

unless you are actively eating or drinking.

Signage and floor markings at the Adler outline new procedures, as well as remind guests and staff to social distance wash their hands. Among the Covid protocols are:

  • Face coverings must be worn at all times. Once a patron reaches their seat in a properly distanced area, removal of masks to consume food and beverage will be permitted.
  • Patrons will be assigned a specific entry time, by section and starting at the front of the house, to reduce overcrowding and reduce crossover contact. Additionally, pulse dismissal from seats will be implemented to reduce overcrowding.
  • Guests will be encouraged to move directly to their seats.
  • Patrons will not be allowed to congregate in the lobby during intermission.
  • Concessions and merchandise will not be available in the lobby.
  • No contact program distribution will be utilized. Tables will be set up for this specific purpose.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers will be located outside of the restrooms and at all access points leading to the theater.
  • After the show begins and after intermission, employees will clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces and restrooms.
  • Staff will be assigned to monitor social distancing and hygiene in the lobby, walkways and restrooms.

For more information, visit


Davenport's Adler Theatre Gives Local Performers a Big Stage in New Series
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.