Sonoma’s Transcendence Theatre Company opened its seventh season of “Broadway Under the Stars” in Jack London State Park with Stairway to Paradise, the first of four staged concert events scheduled this year.
The company takes performers with Broadway, touring company, film and television experience and creates an original themed musical revue around them. This year’s theme is ‘Every Moment Counts’ and director/choreographer Tony Gonzalez has designed 20+ production numbers full of memorable moments. Along with Broadway show tunes, the Transcendence play list includes a mix of recent and past pop hits, classic rock, and specialty numbers. They’re all done ‘Broadway style’ and occasionally with a twist. It often works well, but sometimes it doesn’t.
The first act ran the gamut from numbers from Sunday in the Park with George, South Pacific, The Wiz, and Victor/Victoria to “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and “Feelin’ Groovy” by Paul Simon. Highlights included a recreation of the famous Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand duet of “Get Happy/Happy Days are Here Again” with Courtney Markowitz and Shaleah Adkisson, Christine Lavin’s popular “Air Conditioner” song, also done by Adkisson with Tim Roller, and a large-scale production number of “Blue Skies” with the entire company led by Joey Khoury singing and dancing to the Irving Berlin classic.
In an amusing bit that allowed the performers (and audience) a break, the cast played a round of ‘Transcendence Family Feud’ with contestants pulled from the crowd. The act ended on a local note with a performance of “Everything”, a tribute song written by Sonoma County songwriters Mark Beynon and Joe Label and the Transcendence version of “Oklahoma!” which morphed the Rogers and Hammerstein classic into “Oh, Sonoma!”
The second act included numbers from Cabaret, Into the Woods, and The Sound of Music mixed with Justin Timberlake, Van Halen and, in the evening’s one clear misstep, Don McLean’s “American Pie”. Sorry guys, but perky, Cheshire cat-like smiling performers singing “This’ll be the day that I die” just doesn’t work for me. It actually came off a little creepy.
Things snapped back with a jaunty Michael Linden performing Drew Gasparini’s “A Little Bit” and large-scale numbers with Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and Van Halen’s “Right Now” before concluding with “Finale B’ from Rent.
Dress in layers, pack a picnic, indulge in some wine or food purchased from local food trucks and vintners serving on-site, then sit back and enjoy a unique north bay entertainment experience.
‘Stairway to Paradise’ runs Friday through Sunday through July 1 at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. Doors open for picnicking at 5pm; the show starts at 7:30pm.
For more info on this and the other three “Broadway Under the Stars” productions running this season, go to bestnightever.com