Pick! ASR Theater ~~ Transcendence Theatre’s “The Gala”—Truly a Night to Remember

By Sue Morgan

The setting sun illuminated dramatic, pink-tinged clouds as the audience took their seats beneath the open sky in Transcendence Theatre Company’s outdoor performance venue at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. The air was balmy and redwoods, silhouetted against the twilit firmament, perfectly framed the vineyard below. So began a magical evening as the performers took the stage for TTC’s final performance of the summer season: “The Gala.”

Hard to believe that director and choreographer Chip Abbot, associate director Billy Bustamonte, musical director Matt Smart and the rest of the creative team could surpass the excellence of Transcendence’s earlier productions “Let’s Dance” and “Hooray for Hollywood,” but “The Gala” is nothing short of a stunner! The talent and artistry on display were Broadway quality throughout .

…Choreography throughout the evening was tight, expressive and polished…

It would be too difficult to comment on the highlights of every outstanding performance during Sunday night’s show. Suffice it to say that nearly every number was a show-stopper! The opener, “on Broadway,” performed by the entire ensemble, was energetic, precise and joyful, promising wonderful things to come.

#317: (l to r) Kathleen Laituri, Ben Lanham, Colin Campbell McAdoo, & Ruby Lewis. Photo Credit: Ray Mabry Photography

“Beautiful City” from “Godspell” seemed written to showcase frequent Broadway performer Jesse Nager’s gorgeously smooth tenor. Resonating with gentle power and a palpable sense of yearning, Nager held the audience in thrall throughout the performance. Without the impediment of a ceiling, Nager’s vocals were remarkably crisp and soared unencumbered into the night sky. As the final notes slowly faded, twilight gave way to night, as if scripted. A truly transcendent experience!

Jesse delivered again, along with veteran Transcendence performers Colin Campbell McAdoo and Kyle Kemph, with an extraordinarily moving performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Other standout vocal performances (again, among dozens!) were Ruby Lewis in “It All Fades Away” and Colin Campbell McAdoo and Ruby Lewis in “Shallow.” Upbeat songs were frequently followed by ballads, which lent a nice balance to both sets in the show.

The Gala Company. Photo Credit: Rob Martel

Choreography throughout the evening was tight, expressive and polished, with the dancers making even the most intricate moves seem almost effortless! Again, there were too many memorable numbers to enumerate, but I must mention the exquisite interpretive dances performed by Kathleen Laituri and Ben Lanham as well as the wonderful moves (and vocals) performed by Cecil Washington Jr., Colin Campbell McAdoo, Jesse Nager, and Kyle Kemph in the wonderful Four Seasons medley.

Lighting and sound were solid, with nary a hiccup to interrupt the flow. This production was outstanding in every respect and every member of the audience I spoke with said they were delighted and surprised by the enormity of talent on display throughout the evening. This was indeed “the best night ever!”

(l to r) Cecil Washington Jr., Colin Campbell McAdoo, Jesse Nager, & Kyle Kemph. Photo Credit: Ray Mabry Photography

In its 11th year, Transcendence Theatre continues to raise the bar as they bring ever greater talent and vitality to Sonoma County Wine Country. The non-profit company, founded by Artistic Director Amy Miller, and husband, Executive Director Brad Surosky, has been instrumental in supporting Jack London State Park by providing over $675,000 in much-needed donations to sustain the beloved historical landmark. The duo informed the audience of a matching grant that would provide $500k in additional funding if the company is able to raise commitments of $500k in donations by the end of October and have donations in-hand by the end of the year—a deeply worthy cause.

“The Gala” begins at 7:30 but come early to enjoy a picnic supper (food vendors are on site for those who prefer not to bring their own) and wine and beer provided by Transcendence sponsors while listening to acoustic music in the lawn area. Remember to bring a sweater or lap blanket, as the temperature can drop after the sun goes down.

Tickets range from $25 to $165 for VIP seating (which includes wine tickets, premium seating, and priority parking). Masks are recommended but not required.

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Contributing Writer Sue Morgan is a literature-and-theater enthusiast in Sonoma County’s Russian River region. Contact: sstrongmorgan@gmail.com

 

 

ProductionThe Gala
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed &
Choreographed by
Chip Abbot
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThru September 18th
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen

2400 London Ranch Road, Sonoma
Websitewww.transcendencetheatre.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$25-$165
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
ScriptN/A
Stagecraft5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

Pick! ASR Theater ~~ “Hooray for Hollywood” Hits the Mark; Transcendence Shows Off Silver Screen Energy

By Cari Lynn Pace

Lights, Camera, Action! Hollywood’s movies inspire and propel the latest Transcendence Theatre Company’s production, now showing live onstage at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, CA. If you grew up watching movies, and rocked along with the music, you’ve got to see this energy-packed show.

Over five dozen songs from movies then and now delight the senses in this fast-paced and multi-level production. Fifteen singers and dancers show off their vocal power and athletic moves as the klieg lights pierce the night. The stage bursts with costume changes from “The Greatest Showman” to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Hooray for Hollywood cast working.

There’s a lovely pas de deux from “An American in Paris” and a clever “Jailhouse Rock” medley interspersed with “West Side Story.” The audience gave a standing cheer to “The Show Must Go On” in the second act, and many joined in when the “Time Warp” and “Footloose” let loose.

“…star talents with tight yet fluid moves. The silver screen never looked this good!”

Transcendence’s Musical Director Susan Draus conceived this amazing evening, revealing her lifelong love of movie music. Director/choreographer Alaina Mills, highlights the dancers’ star talents with tight yet fluid moves. The silver screen never looked this good!

Transcendence has but a few weeks to rehearse their superb talent in their short summer season. On opening weekend of “Hooray for Hollywood,” one of the TTC veterans had been injured in rehearsal and unable to dance. She sat alongside the orchestra and sang her part beautifully, smiling along with her fellow dancers. What a brilliant way to build company camaraderie!

Transcendence began ten years ago with a handful of singing and dancing performers who escaped their summer gigs on Broadway and LA stages. From their humble start as a nonprofit established to support the Jack London State Historic Park, they’ve grown to be a beloved part of the Bay Area performing arts family in Sonoma. Transcendence now has Kids Camps and Outreach Programs to bring joyful theatre and workshops to all ages.

To have what many call “The Best Night Ever!” bring a picnic starting at 5 PM and share the summer with pre-show entertainment, gourmet food trucks, and premium Sonoma County wines. After the party, settle into your seat surrounded by the stone ruins of the park. Dress in layers, for when the moon rises the temperature falls.

Transcendence Theater Company – 2022 Hooray for Hollywood cast at work

“Hooray for Hollywood” is the second outdoor show in their three-part summer series and runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings through August 14th at the Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen in Sonoma. Next up will be the outdoor “Gala” set for September 9-18, and their indoor Holiday Show this winter.

New this year is a “Transcendence For All” program that shares the joy of musical theatre with the community. Affordable tickets are available for $25, with closer-in seats starting at $49 to $165 for VIP at www.ttcsonoma.org or call the box office at 877-424-1414.

And finally, if you’d like just a brief peek at the energy and excitement of “Hooray for Hollywood”, check out this video clip: https://youtu.be/b1ct15tnk_w

“Hooray for Hollywood” — it’s a fun-filled spectacular!

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ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ProductionHooray for Hollywood
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed byAlaina Mills
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThrough August 14th 2022
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen

2400 London Ranch Road, Sonoma
Websitewww.ttcsonoma.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$25-$165
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
Choreography5/5
Stagecraft5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ Latin Flair Brings the Heat as Transcendence Theatre Returns with “Let’s Dance”

By Cari Lynn Pace

Summers at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen have been parched and dusty ever since Transcendence Theatre Company abandoned their outdoor stage for two years due to the pandemic.

TTC’s award-winning assemblage of talented singers and dancers from Broadway and LA shows have finally burst back onto the stage for their summer season opener “Let’s Dance.” They’ve returned with smiles, boundless energy, and rhythm from top to toe.

When the orchestra sounds the opening note, and the bright lights go up onstage, prepare to be blown away!

Transcendence has presented productions under the stars at Jack London State Park for ten summer seasons. Their successful “Best Night Ever!” formula has traditionally been a potpourri of popular song-and-dance numbers from hit musicals. “Let’s Dance” is their first summer offering for 2022, to be followed by two later productions: “Hooray for Hollywood” in late July and early August, and “The Gala” in September.

“Let’s Dance” displays the influence of guest director and choreographer Luis Salgado, whose Puerto Rican roots give the entire production a Latin flair. Salgado enthuses “I wanted to showcase the cultural heritage of dance to include salsa, Peruvian tap, and drum solos. We blended these with contemporary moves. It was a challenge rehearsing new movement styles outdoors in the heat of the sun, waiting for it to cool off a little. But we did it! I love this community and its spirit, its soul!”

L to R: Catherine Wreford, Anna Aliau I. Guerra, CorBen Williams, Sophie Lee Morris, Kyle Kemph Photo Credit: Rob Martel

Salgado brings out the best from TTC’s troupe of skilled dancers. Their exhaustive efforts—strenuous, athletic, and precise—give a rousing start to the opening number in “Primer Acto” (Act I.) Twenty singers and dancers, including many new faces among beloved Transcendence regulars, keep the energy charged up.

Segundo Acto (Act II) starts with a Peruvian drum solo improvisation by guest artist Luis Antonio Vilchez Vargas in baggy white pants and a big smile. The audience claps as instructed, to amusing pantomime. The feel-good atmosphere rises as does the moon above the stone ruins of the park.

“Let’s Dance” is mostly dance, yet plenty of singing numbers also shine. Spanish speakers may enjoy “Dos Oruguitas” while all can follow the many musical medleys packed with Broadway hits. The production is splendidly accompanied by the 10-piece Transcendence Band conducted by Matt Smart.

Jack London State Historic Park starts admitting picnickers to TTC performances as early as 5 p.m. Patrons bring hampers, food trucks ply their wares, premium wine and beer vendors offer tastes and sell glasses and bottles—to be enjoyed outside the amphitheater, as no alcohol may be brought in.

CorBen Williams & Brianna-Marie Bell Photo Credit: Ray Mabry

Live music encourages the fun and friendly banter in the dry open field, amusingly mislabeled the “great lawn.” Outdoor seating, all assigned, begins in the stone ruins as the sun drops low beyond the mountains. New this season are chairs with padded seats and backs, a welcome addition to the winery ruins.

Just before the show starts at 7:30, take time to breathe deeply of the clear air in the summer night. As the nearby vineyards glow in the setting sun, get out a jacket and lap blanket, and enjoy the quiet beauty of this Valley of the Moon. When the orchestra sounds the opening note, and the bright lights go up onstage, prepare to be blown away!

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ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ProductionLet's Dance
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed & Choreographed byLuis Salgado
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThru July 3rd, 2022
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Rd. Glen Ellen, CA 95442
Websitewww.transcendencetheatre.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414. Toll free,
Tickets$25 -$49-$165 VIP
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
Script3/5
Stagecraft4/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

An ASR Pick! Transcendence’s Broadway Holiday Spectacular Offers an Evening of Magic at Belos Cavalos — by Nicole Singley

L to R: Edward Juvier, David R. Gordon, Maria Bilbao, Arielle Crosby, and Lori Haley Fox (Photo by Rob Martel)

It’s that time of the year again, and Transcendence Theatre Company has cooked up something special sure to put you in the spirit. Their Broadway Holiday Spectacular is back, and this season, it’s better than ever. Featuring a talented troupe of artists from all over the country – including many familiar faces, and some exciting new additions to the Transcendence family, too – it’s a high-energy night full of festive, foot-tapping fun for folks of all ages. Be sure to catch it while you can, before the show’s two-week run ends on December 12th.

Returning audiences will recognize all the traditional elements of a night spent with Transcendence – fresh and funny renditions of favorite tunes and classic carols, a live band and dazzling choreography, and of course, a pre-show party complete with food and wine from local vendors. But this year, the fun has moved under the big tent at Belos Cavalos, a charming equestrian estate tucked away in the hills of Kenwood, where guests will enjoy the chance to mingle with horses and goats during intermission, and gather around tables in lieu of standard theater seating.

On the program are a number of fan-favorites from previous years, including a clever play on Madonna’s “Vogue” paying homage to Rudolph of reindeer fame, and a silly song about making fruitcake set to the tune of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” performed capably by Transcendence newcomer Edward Juvier. There are some fun surprises, too, including two four-legged guest-stars, and a creative take on “12 Days of Christmas” inviting audience members to help with the countdown.

If you’ve never experienced a Transcendence show, make this the first of many.”

Top row: Bebe Browning, Marissa Barragán, Edward Juvier, Kyle Kemph; Bottom row: Luther Brooks IV, Preston Truman Boyd, Drew Elhamalawy (Photo by Rob Martel)

Lori Haley Fox is quirky and endearing as Mrs. Claus, who serves as our narrator throughout the evening, and Preston Truman Boyd is our flannel-clad Santa, loosely framing the musical acts within an uplifting story about family, friendship, and love. Behind them onstage, the live band really rocks, and bassist Lynn Keller even joins performer David Morgan for a cute number about Chanukah, together lamenting the limited greeting card options available at the local drugstore.

There are, of course, some slower heartfelt pieces in the mix, including a haunting rendition of “O Holy Night” performed by Kyle Kemph, whose voice is so clear and bright it gave me chills, and Arielle Crosby, whose talent alone is worth the price of admission. The pair team up again for an equally moving performance of beloved Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston duet “When You Believe.” Maria Bilbao nearly steals the show with a spine-tingling version of “Please Come Home for Christmas.” She makes it sound effortless, and the high notes brought actual tears to my eyes.

Top row: Bebe Browning, Drew Elhamalawy; Bottom row: Maria Bilbao, David R. Gordon, Kristin Piro; Front: Arielle Crosby (Photo by Rob Martel)

The entire cast is immensely talented, so much so that it almost feels unfair to single anyone out. But I’d be remiss not to also mention Transcendence newcomer Luther Brooks IV, who charms with his sparkling smile and evident dance skills. Be sure to keep an eye on him during some of the big ensemble numbers. Choreographers Matthew Steffens and Marissa Barragán have worked some magic on stage, making the show as fun to watch as it is to hear and sing along to. (Did I mention there are tiny goats in diapers?)

If you’ve never experienced a Transcendence show, make this the first of many. And if you’re a repeat visitor, you’ll be happy you didn’t miss out on this one. Plan to get there early and meet the horses, take selfies with goats, and wine and dine with friends before the show. Bring layers, too – the heated tent felt a bit chilly as the night cooled down. Even so, you’re sure to leave feeling full of warmth and holiday cheer.

Nicole Singley is a Senior Contributing Writer and Editor at Aisle Seat Review and a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, Sonoma County’s Marquee Theater Journalists Association, and the American Theatre Critics Association.

 

ProductionBroadway Holiday Spectacular 2021
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed & Choreographed byMatthew Steffens
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThrough December 12th, 2021
Production AddressBelos Cavalos
687 Campagna Lane
Kenwood, CA 95452
Websitebestnightever.org
or
ttcsonoma.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$49-$149
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall4.5/5
Performance4.5/5
Choreography4.5/5
Stagecraft4/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

An ASR Theater Review: “Broadway Under the Stars” Season Closer “The Gala” Shines as Transcendence Theatre Celebrates 10 Yrs of Sparkle – by Cari Lynn Pace

The Gala cast — Photo credit Rob Martel

If you’re looking for a “field of dreams”, Transcendence Theatre Company brings it to Sonoma’s Jack London Historic State Park. Stars from stage and screen blend their talents amongst the classic stone ruins of the winery to perform hits from best-loved musicals for one more weekend this September. The audience was delighted to be able to return to this showcase under the sky of singers, dancers, and knock-your-socks-off musicians.

Where did this astounding talent come from? Many of these performers are taking a break from starring in a Broadway musical or touring company. They may have tasted the Sonoma lifestyle and given up their world tours to teach the joys of theatre year-round to youth in the Bay Area. Transcendence Theatre Company performers may be far from the neon lights, but their dedication to community keeps them close to their adoring public.

The Gala cast performs “Friend Like Me” — Photo credit Rob Martel

The professionals who are part of this non-profit company love being here; the company helps arrange local housing and sightseeing. No wonder they make each show the “Best Night Ever!” as Artistic Director Amy Miller enthusiastically exhorts. The audience heartily agrees.

“Transcendence Theatre Company performers may be far from the neon lights, but their dedication to community keeps them close to their adoring public.”

“The Gala” is the closing production of 2021’s summer season of “Broadway Under the Stars.” The performances start at sunset, but some show-goers make a day of it, tasting wines at local Sonoma estates. Others arrive early at Jack London Park, spreading out their picnics on tables set on the great dry lawn. Hikers explore, romantics relax, and food trucks arrive with an assortment of delicious choices. Nightly wine and beer sponsors set up counters to offer their vintages by the glass, while local pre-show musicians turn the crowd into a festive party.

Kyle Kemph performs “Waving Through the Window” — Photo credit Brennan Chin

By the time folks start filing into the winery ruins to find their assigned seats for the 7:30 show, they’ve made friends and shared laughter, and probably some food and wine as well.

“The Gala” begins with the full company in blazing white performing “The Spark of Creation” against the setting sun. This stunning opener is quickly followed by ten more song-and-dance hits from musicals, including Hamilton, Funny Girl, West Side Story, On Your Feet, In the Heights, Next to Normal, and more.

Act II begins with another full company number “Brand New Day,” but on this Saturday evening no microphones were working. The song came to a halt as Executive Director Brad Surosky took the stage to announce a restart once the sound was fixed. The audience and cast took it all in good humor. The entertainment soon buzzed back into action with selections from The Wiz, Aladdin, Dear Evan Hansen, Movin’ Out, Man of La Mancha, A New World, and more.

L to R – Emilio Ramos, Rosharra Francis, and Meggie Cansler Ness.
Photo credit Rob Martel.

Many performers danced through the audience; one sang “Lost in the Wilderness” spotlighted high up on the winery wall. Transcendence has a reputation for winners, and “The Gala” delivered boundless energy as usual. What a way to close out the summer! Let’s hope they can capture a generous matching grant to continue their award-winning shows and community work.

“The Gala” will fill the night with music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings September 17, 18 and 19th. Shows are presented at Jack London State Historic Park at 2400 London Ranch Road Glen Ellen, CA. Pre-show picnics begin at 5:00 pm; show starts at 7:30 pm.

L to R – Anna Guerra, Michael Sylvester, Rosharra Francis, and Drew Fountain. Photo credit Rob Martel.

Tickets range from $49 reserved seating to $129 for VIP (which includes wine, close-in seats and priority parking.) Dress in layers for the cooler evenings. Masks are currently highly recommended. Performances tend to fill quickly.

Heads up: Transcendence’s annual “Broadway Holiday Spectacular” is planned for December 3rd-12th outdoors at Belos Cavalos in Kenwood. Cast and details will be announced at a later date.

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ASR Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

Production"The Gala"
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed & Choreographed byLuis Salgado
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesFriday through Sunday September 17-19, 2021
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Rd. Glen Ellen, CA 95442
Websitewww.transcendencetheatre.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414. Toll free,
Tickets$49-$129
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
ScriptN/A
Stagecraft4/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

An ASR Theater Review: “Road Trip!” Jump Starts ‘Broadway Under the Stars’ with Transcendence Theatre Co. — by Cari Lynn Pace

“Road Trip” working — photo by Ray Mabry

Want to take a cross-country road trip, without the car or the outrageous price of gas? Freedom to travel may still be restricted, but Transcendence Theatre Company’s (TTC) new show offers a fast-moving ride. As the sun sets over the vineyards and the band strikes up “This is My Country” a cast of ten extraordinarily talented singers, dancers, and several musicians fills the stage to spotlight cities and locations from California to New York, and lots in between.

“Road Trip!” performers are escapees from Broadway, off-Broadway, international stages, and national tours who accepted the invitation to share their talents with TTC in Sonoma. Their amazing voices and stage antics in over two dozen production numbers cleverly brought out the fun in our country’s diversity.

“Road Trip” making magic. — photo by Ray Mabry

Award-winning TTC is celebrating their tenth year of presenting “Broadway Under the Stars.” After a shut-out year due to Covid, this show explodes with energy. TTC limited the audience to 60% of capacity, but applause was 100%, echoing over the stone ruins of the Jack London State Historic Park.

“Travel may still be restricted, but Transcendence Theatre Company’s opening show delivers a fast-moving ride.”

The incoming crowd was welcomed by cast members, including TTC newcomer Billy Cohen. When asked what he would perform in the show, he admitted “I’m singing ‘Gaston’ (from “Beauty and the Beast”) even though I’m not quite his body type.” What Cohen modestly didn’t mention was his “Rocky Mountain High” guitar solo performed way atop the stone walls.

“Wow, it’s so great to see they’re back” gushed one patron, and the performers matched that enthusiasm. TTC newcomer Belinda Allyn, from New Jersey, said “We’re nervous and yet thrilled to be back on stage.”

TTC’s familiar cast member Meggie Cansler Ness added “I told my parents not to expect to see much of me when our rehearsals began. It’s so much work but it feels terrific to get going again.”

Veteran TTC star Colin Campbell McAdoo was also back, adding his hilarious stage presence and musical talent while driving onstage in a chair, complete with a California license plate.

“Performers are stars who escaped Broadway, off-Broadway, international stages, and national tours to accept TTC’s invitation to Sonoma.”

Circulating everywhere were TTC Executive Director Brad Surosky and Artistic Director Amy Miller. These founding members of the non-profit were beaming – behind their face masks – to see the joy and smiles of the audience on this beautiful evening. Kudos go to Musical Director Susan Draus as “Road Trip” was her concept, so brilliantly appropriate for our difficult times.

“Road Trip” singing — photo by Ray Mabry

“Road Trip!” is an evening of picnic and food truck festivities, beginning at 5 p.m. Folks bring food and snag a hay bale or table in the lawn area for pre-show entertainment. There’s plenty of wine and beer available for purchase, including premium varietals from sponsors Benziger and Viansa Wineries. At sunset, the audience is seated in the ancient winery grounds for the 7:30 show. Dress in layers as nights in Sonoma can get cool.

Tickets are $49 to $129 VIP. VIP tickets include two glasses of premium wine, a special socializing area, and priority seats. Performances are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings until August 29th at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. For more details, drive your fingers straight to www.TTCSonoma.org.

“Road Trip” in action — photo by Ray Mabry

You won’t go wrong! Come feel the breeze in your face while this superb outdoor showcase of song and dance takes you from coast to coast.

Extra Special Tip: If you’re heading up early to “Road Trip!” you may enjoy a pit stop at Eric Ross Winery for a dose of Americana, classy wines, and striking photographs. It’s on the left at 14300 Arnold Drive.

Production"Road Trip"
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed & Choreographed byJessica Lee Coffman
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThrough August 29th, 2021
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Rd. Glen Ellen, CA 95442
Websitebestnightever.org
or
ttcsonoma.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$49-$129
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
ScriptN/A
StagecraftN/A
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

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ASR Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

 

An ASR Theater Review: Live at the Drive-In as Transcendence Returns with “My Hero” — by Nicole Singley

The sun presses down into the mountains, casting its colors across the ancient oaks and sprawling vineyards, as cars pull into the dirt lot at Sonoma County’s scenic B.R. Cohn Winery. Outside their cars, new arrivals are unloading blankets and picnic baskets, sitting down at bistro tables and lining up to order wine and cookies. At the lot’s edge sits an unassuming small black stage, and beside it a gigantic projection screen, staring out across the growing lines of cars. It’s as beautiful an evening as any in Sonoma Valley, but the magic has only just begun.

L to R: Meggie Cansler Ness, Arielle Crosby, Catherine Wreford, and Amanda Lopez.

 

In their first live production since pre-pandemic times, Transcendence Theatre Company kicks off their 10th anniversary season with “My Hero,” offering theatergoers a unique experience at their socially-distanced drive-in performances in Glen Ellen through June 20th.

In keeping with Transcendence tradition, the show is a musical mash-up of beloved Broadway tunes and other favorite chart-toppers cleverly compiled and choreographed around a common theme – this time, a tribute to our frontline healthcare workers and everyday heroes. Featuring recognizable songs traversing countless genres and decades, it’s a show that will appeal to every member of the family, with plenty of opportunities to sing along.

…a rewarding experience you won’t want to miss.

Under the capable guidance of veteran director/choreographer Matthew Rossoff – and accompanied by live music under the direction of Matt Smart – a cast of only seven fills the stage with enough energy and enthusiasm for twenty. Among them are a few familiar faces, including Transcendence veterans Meggie Cansler Ness, Colin Campbell McAdoo, Arielle Crosby, and Catherine Wreford. But there are newcomers, too, and they don’t disappoint. Amanda Lopez, Kevin Schuering, and Bernard Dotson add some refreshing new voices to TTC’s already impressive pool of talent, and boast some serious pipes, to boot.

“Arielle Crosby steals the show.” Photo by Brian Janks.

It’s a spectacular group, not a weak link in the bunch, but Arielle Crosby steals the show. (If her take on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” doesn’t make you want to dance, I’d wager nothing will.) Other memorable numbers include a funny parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” with clever lyrics celebrating all things quarantine from Zoom to Tiger King, a powerful performance of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” by Lopez, and a cute golden oldies medley featuring The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman.” The show also includes some really moving pre-recorded interviews with frontline workers and other local voices, thoughtfully interspersed with the cast’s rendition of Bill Withers’s “Lean on Me.”

Despite the distraction of some lighting issues – often par for the course with outdoor shows – the technical aspects of the production are fairly impressive. The oversized projection screen, combined with large speakers spaced throughout the parking lot, make it easy to hear and see all that’s happening on stage, even at a distance.

L to R: Bernard Dotson, Amanda Lopez, Kevin Schuering, Catherine Wreford, Colin Campbell McAdoo, and Arielle Crosby

Though lacking in some of the flash and polish typical of most Transcendence productions, it’s clear a lot of hard work, heart, and creativity have been poured into “My Hero,” and the result is a rewarding experience you won’t want to miss. With only three performances left and tickets starting at $54 per car, parking spots are sure to go quickly.

***

ProductionMy Hero
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed & Choreographed byMatthew Rossoff
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThru June 20th, 2021
Production AddressB.R. Cohn Winery, 15000 Sonoma Hwy, Glen Ellen, CA 95442
Websitebestnightever.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$54-$129
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall4/5
Performance4/5
ScriptN/A
Stagecraft3/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

Nicole Singley

Sr. Contributing Writer/Editor, AisleSeatReview.com

Member, American Theatre Critics Association

Member, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Member, Marquee Theater Journalists Association

 

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An ASR Interview: Transcendence Theatre Company Honors Front-line Health Workers with “My Hero” — By Cari Lynn Pace

Photo by Brian Janks. 3 – L to R: Director Matthew Rossoff, Meggie Cansler Ness, Colin Campbell McAdoo, Bernard Dotson, and Musical Director, Matt Smart.

Remember hot summer nights at the local drive-in movie?

Brad Surosky, Executive Director of Transcendence Theatre Company, was just a kid in the back seat when he went to the drive-in movies with his family. Last December, he revived his fond memories of the drive-in by screening a movie taken of TTC’s 2019 holiday show. It was such fun that he thought he could pump it up with a live performance, and a live band, onstage.

TTC’s Artistic Director Amy Miller, Brad’s wife, caught drive-in fever too. She says, “After stumbling through such a difficult 2020, what a fabulous way to celebrate the start of Transcendence Theatre Company’s 10th anniversary season! We can thank the workers and volunteers who helped keep us safe, and our singers, dancers, and musicians will be thrilled to finally shine live on stage.”

I asked Amy what the Transcendence performers have been doing since their theatres on Broadway and LA have been shuttered. These singers and dancers spend their entire lives studying, auditioning, rehearsing, and performing hard-earned roles in neon-lit theatres. Prior to the pandemic, they would have been invited to California to wow audiences at Jack London State Historic Park for the 2020 summer season. That all fell apart.

Photo by Brian Janks.

“With theatres closed, they’ve mostly moved back in with their families in their hometowns,” Amy admits. “Many of our friends are teaching Zoom classes in acting, singing, dance, fitness, or exercise. Some do private coaching, including with children. A few of our friends started online businesses to help other actors with networking, budgeting, and of course maintaining their mental health. Most now have other jobs, in real estate and the wine industry, and one has even been selling cars. He’s sold over 100 cars already!”

This drive-in show will be TTC’s first live performance since the pandemic…

Brad notes, “This drive-in show will be TTC’s first live performance since the pandemic. We have seven talents singing and dancing out front plus five support staff backstage, technical, and front of house. Twenty of us make this show happen, including the band. It’s a perfect warm-up for the big production shows we’ve set for later this summer in Glen Ellen.”

“My Hero,” the theme of this performance, pays tribute to front line health care workers and volunteers, including many from Kaiser, Sutter, Providence and Sonoma Valley Hospitals. Amy notes, “It’s an uplifting night to celebrate and give thanks to those who have helped us come through this together.”

“My Hero” includes Broadway hits and popular favorites performed on a raised stage, with a 40’ screen simulcast for viewing from the entire field. Performers have wireless mikes, broadcast to be heard through each car’s radio. The audience can relax in their cars, or sit outside on chairs.

There will be additional speakers throughout the fairgrounds in Petaluma and the B. R. Cohn Winery in Sonoma. Picnics are welcome and food trucks will be set up. Gates open at 6:30. Dress in layers as the show starts at 8:30 and runs nonstop until 10 PM due to sound ordinances.

Since Transcendence Theatre Company is a non-profit, operation supporting educational outreach and Jack London State Historic Park, I asked Brad what was planned for the profits from these shows. “Profits? There likely won’t be any!” he laughed. “This is Transcendence’s investment back into the community. We’ve donated tickets to frontline healthcare workers in thanks for their dedication to our survival.”

“My Hero” tickets are at www.bestnightever.org or call the box office at 877-424-1414 for weekend shows from June 4th through June 20th. Each car entry is $49 ($129 for VIP) for a car full. No need to hide in the trunk! All COVID-19 protocols will be followed as required by Sonoma County Health Department.

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ASR Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

 

 

 

An Aisle Seat Review PICK! Transcendence Broadway Holiday Spectacular 2019 by Cari Lynn Pace

Transcendence got the “Spectacular” name right – this show is an amazing celebration. The cadre of 19 good-looking expats from Broadway and LA blockbuster musicals rocked the Sonoma stage and travels to the Napa stage with this annual show. They mix it up with dancing (from ballet to tap), singing (from touching solos to majestic choruses) and 100% joyful energy.

Done in two acts, Transcendence talents perform holiday favorites along with signature pieces from eight classic musicals in the first half. Songs include all faiths, with “O Holy Night” and “Sabbath Prayer” beautifully juxtaposed on a two-level set.

Photo by Mimi Carroll.

Act II flashes back to carols and seasonal songs over the ages, punched up by high-energy creative choreography by Tony Gonzalez, who also directs. The talented 10-piece band under Susan Draus’s baton had a blast strutting their stuff, with a few musicians sharing the limelight with the dancers.

All ages rushed to their feet for a standing ovation…

The show provokes lots of laughter. There’s an amusing role reversal when Micki Weiner and Colin Campbell McAdoo sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” More hilarity when five handsome guys scruff about, singing “I’m Getting’ Nuttin’ for Christmas.”

Tony Gonzalez, a veteran Transcendence member, deserves a shout out for the impressive flow of the show, so well varied in pace and volume. Ten cast members rocked the house with “Light Sings”, building up a tremendous crescendo of voices to thunderous applause. Just when you think it can’t get any more dynamic, the spotlight hits David R. Gordon with his guitar on center stage. He practically whispers his poignant solo “Let There be Peace on Earth” as the audience holds their breath. Not a pin was dropped.

Photo by Ray Martel.

All ages rushed to their feet for a standing ovation as the finale ended and the performers took their bows. Transcendence Broadway Holiday Spectacular is a power-packed show, exuberant entertainment at its festive best.

 

ASR Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

ProductionMy Hero
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed & Choreographed byMatthew Rossoff
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThru June 20th, 2021
Production AddressB.R. Cohn Winery, 15000 Sonoma Hwy, Glen Ellen, CA 95442
Websitebestnightever.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$54-$129
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall4/5
Performance4/5
ScriptN/A
Stagecraft3/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

 

AN AISLE SEAT REVIEW PICK! — “Those Dancin’ Feet” Kicks It Up a Notch — by Cari Lynn Pace

PHOTO: Those Dancin’ Feet_61 – L to R Alex Hartman and Colin Bradbury (dancers) and Kayley Anne Collins and Neil Starkenberg (vocals).
Photo by Ray Mabry / © R. Mabry Photography 2019

Transcendence Theatre Company (TTC) has presented productions “under the stars” at Sonoma’s Jack London State Historic Park for eight summer seasons. This award-winning troupe has grown from the dream of its three founders to encompass over 50 singers and dancers taking a break from their Broadway and LA shows.

Their successful “Broadway Under the Stars” formula has traditionally been a potpourri of popular song-and-dance numbers. This year TTC experiments by adding a casual plot line to “Those Dancin’ Feet” to link the dance numbers. It works, splendidly. The show runs through August 25.

The experience at “Broadway Under the Stars” is top notch…

It starts with three couples who move with agile beauty through stages of courtship and commitment. Their ‘alter egos’ sing of passion, longing, joy, sadness, and despair. The program cleverly sprinkles a mix of 29 songs —some from decades past, some today’s Grammy winners — and everything flows and moves in a seamless and splendid reflection of love and life.

The experience at “Broadway Under the Stars” is top notch, with the production enhanced by the Transcendence Band conducted by Matt Smart.

PHOTO: Those Dancin’ Feet_262 – L to R Dee Tomasetta, Croix Dilenno and Cara Salemo.
Photo by Ray Mabry / © R. Mabry Photography 2019

There are so many intricate dance numbers that Director/Choreographer Roy Lightner is joined by choreographers Sara Brians and Chip Abbott. They showcase 20 athletic and fluid dancers, and the result is over the top.

TTC evenings, traditionally touted as the “Best night ever!” start as early as 5 p.m. at Jack London State Historic Park. Patrons bring picnics to enjoy at the umbrella-equipped tables, food trucks ply their wares, premium wine and beer vendors offer tastes, and live music encourages the fun and friendly camaraderie in the open field —  known amusingly as “The Great Lawn.”

Outdoor seating (assigned) begins in the stone ruins as the sun drops low beyond the mountains. Just before the show starts at 7:30, put away your sun hat, grab a jacket and lap blanket, and revel in the quiet beauty of the Valley of the Moon. When the lights come up on the dancers onstage, prepare to be blown away!

ASR Reviewer Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

ProductionThose Dancin' Feet
Written byTranscendence Theater Co.
Directed byRoy Lightner
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThrough August 25th
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen (Sonoma)
Websitebestnightever.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$49-$154
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
Script4/5
Stagecraft4/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

AN AISLE SEAT REVIEW PICK! One Singular Sensation: “A Chorus Line” – by Cari Lynn Pace

“A Chorus Line” cast (Photo courtesy of Transcendence Theatre Company)

Every summer through September, friends flock to one of four different “Broadway Under the Stars” shows: mix-and-mingle evenings full of fresh air, picnics, fine wines, stunning scenery, and professional singers and dancers. These extraordinary escapees from the bright lights of Broadway and LA have a single goal: to give patrons their “best night ever!” And they do!

Eight years ago a small circle of NYC and LA performers took the summer off and held a song-and-dance fundraiser in the open stone ruins of Jack London State Historic Park. Their first “Broadway Under the Stars” was so well attended it raised enough money to keep the park open.

Each year the three original members, Amy Miller, Brad Surosky, and Stephan Stubbins, recruit more high-energy performers and friends to join them. Today, with over 55 stellar performers, Transcendence is a family of talented dancers and singers who love performing on the beautiful open-air stage in Sonoma’s wine country. They’ve raised nearly $500,000 from ticket sales to keep the park open and are proud to bring performances and classes to local schools.

Transcendence delivers a knockout show at Jack London State Park.”

The first show in their summer lineup under the stars is the award-winning “A Chorus Line.” It couldn’t be a more appropriate choice for Transcendence. Based on actual interviews, the story is about a group of dancers anxiously trying out for limited spots in a Broadway show. Every one of the performers on stage no doubt went through countless such auditions. Now here they are, under the setting sun and rising moon, dancing and singing to win a part they’ve already joyously earned. This is life imitating life. It can’t get more real than this!

Kristin Piro and Matthew Rossoff (Photo courtesy of Transcendence Theatre Company)

About the Transcendence summer experience: Cast members exuberantly welcome Bay Area patrons who come early to the park for a pre-show dinner picnic under umbrellas. Local musicians entertain on a small stage while food trucks line the meadow. Beer and wine vendors offer tastes and glasses of their finest.

At 7:30, just before sunset, patrons gather up their picnic items (and extra jackets) to head for seats in the stone ruins. The orchestra’s pounding beat brings forth a stream of high-stepping performers who belt out songs with sleek moves and smiles against the background of Sonoma Mountain. Broadway never had such a stage setting!

Catch the stars in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon in one of four upcoming summer shows:

“A Chorus Line” runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings through June 30th.

“Fantastical Family Night” for the youngest friends begins July 19th for one weekend through July 20th.

“Those Dancin’ Feet” features world-class dancing full of passion, energy, and excitement, backed by a full orchestra. This program runs August 9th through 25th.

The finale of the summer shows is “Gala Celebration” to complete Transcendence’s magic of music and community, for one weekend only September 6th, 7th and 8th.

ASR reviewer Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.

 

ProductionA Chorus Line
Written byBook by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante; Music by Marvin Hamlisch; Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Directed byAmy Miller
Producing CompanyTranscendence Theatre Company
Production DatesThrough June 30th
Production AddressJack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen
Websitebestnightever.org
Telephone(877) 424-1414
Tickets$49-$154
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Overall5/5
Performance5/5
Script5/5
Stagecraft5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

An ASR Theater Review! Spectacular Transcendence Theatre Company – by Barry Willis

“Stairway to Paradise” at Transcendence Theater Company

The old adage has it that the difference between good and great is enormous. That enormity is totally apparent in “Stairway to Paradise,” the current production by Transcendence Theatre Company, at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, through July 1.

Now in its seventh year, Transcendence doesn’t deliver traditional drama, comedy or musical productions but instead offers stellar revues of music and dance by dozens of Broadway professionals, whose youth is belied by their skill, confidence, and commanding stage presence. “Stairway” is a collection of uplifting songs from Broadway classics with a few enduring pop hits thrown in for variety. The performances range from stunning solo efforts to duets, trios, and full ensemble pieces that will make you glad to be alive.

Some of the performances have a charmingly improvisational characteristic—an intimate, almost throwaway feel—but there is a daunting amount of rehearsal behind each Transcendence production. Each piece segues seamlessly into the next, backed by the rock-solid and solidly-rocking Transcendence band. Comedic intervals include a spoof on a TV game show that may involve volunteers from the audience.

The venue in the park’s stone ruins couldn’t be more accommodating. Ticketholders can enjoy picnicking from 5 p.m. onward until the show begins at 8, on a roughly constructed but perfectly serviceable stage set against the Sonoma hills.

Transcendence Theatre Company is the summer’s North Bay musical destination.

Transcendence does winter holiday shows indoors—last season’s were at the Marin Veterans Auditorium in San Rafael and the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa—and a series of summer shows at Jack London. “Stairway to Paradise” runs through July 1, to be followed by “Fantastical Family Night” July 13 & 14; “Shall We Dance” August 3 – 19; and “Gala Celebration” September 7 – 9.

Transcendence Theatre Company is the summer’s North Bay musical destination. Ordering tickets well in advance is highly recommended. These shows sell out quickly, and with good reason: the world is in dire need of the kind of positive energy that Transcendence serves up at every show.

 

Barry Willis

ASR Theater Section Editor and Senior Writer Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: barry.m.willis@gmail.com

 

 

Transcendence Theatre Company presents

“Stairway to Paradise”

Through July 1: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Jack London State Historic Park  Glen Ellen, CA

Tickets: $45 – $145 (single, reserved seating); Group discounts available Info: 877-424-1414 ext. 1,

www.BestNightEver.org

Rating: Five out of Five Stars

 

ASR Theater Review! Tremendous “Ladies of Broadway” – by Barry Willis

Transcendence Theatre Company specializes in big-production mashups of classic Broadway musicals. The group’s spectacular “Broadway Under the Stars” has been a wine country summer destination for several years.

A recent addition to the Transcendence repertoire is “The Ladies of Broadway,” running the weekends of March 17-18 at the Marin Veterans Auditorium and March 24-25 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. It’s a showcase for seven hyper-talented female veterans of Broadway musicals, with backing by a huge and huge-sounding theater band.

Neither a classic musical nor a classic revue of showtunes, its premise is a loosely-connected story in which each performer relates her aspirations, travails, and successes in landing leading roles in big long-running musicals: Momma Mia, An American in Paris, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You, Motown the Musical, and Wicked among them. There are also plenty of references to older blockbusters, including the works of Stephen Sondheim and Bob Fosse.

Every one of these young women is a double- or triple-threat, meaning they can sing, act, dance, and in some cases, play instruments or do gymnastics. All of them have fantastic stage presence, perfect comic timing, enormous huge vocal range, perfect pitch, and the ability to rattle the back wall of an auditorium without the use of microphones. Their solos are wonderful and their harmonies exquisite.

The show is a fast-moving feast of upbeat tunes, self-deprecating humor and quick-change antics that brings the audience to its feet not only at the show’s close but at intermission as well.

“Ladies of Broadway” is one of the most stunning assemblages of talent you will see on one stage this year—two hours of tremendous fun and an entertainment bargain. Don’t miss it!

ASR Senior Editor Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.

“The Ladies of Broadway” by Transcendence Theatre Company

March 24-25

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

Tickets: $39 – $139 Info: 877-424-1414, www.BestNightEver.org

Rating:  Five out of Five Stars

 

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****