Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 33 / 17 August 2017

Troupers enliven winery ruins

Out There

Transcendence Theatre Company presents their "Broadway Under the Stars" shows at Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County. Photo: Rebecca Call
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Transcendence Theatre Company is currently in the midst of its "Broadway Under the Stars" 2017 summer season performed in the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, CA. Earlier this month Out There trekked up to the sylvan groves of Sonoma County to see the troupe's show "Fascinating Rhythm," which is ending its run this coming weekend, Aug. 17-20.

Transcendence's summer series of outdoor Broadway-inspired concerts features Equity actors from New York and Los Angeles showcased in song-and-dance revues that give individual performers a real chance to shine. "Fascinating Rhythm" features songs from Gershwin, Kander & Ebb, Sondheim , Leonard Bernstein and Billy Joel.

Our Sonoma Wine Country evening began with a lovely al fresco picnic as we enjoyed local wines and box dinners from The Girl & the Fig relaxing near the vineyards in the park's Beauty Ranch meadow. Then we took our seats in the open-air 150-year-old Winery Ruins. It was a rare pleasure to enjoy the show as dusk descended in the valley, giving way to a starlit night.

Transcendence performers were uniformly young, beautiful, and multi-talented. They gave it their all, and what's not to like with that? There was something satisfying and life-affirming in seeing children of the 21st century take up classic show tunes from olden days and make them their own. Highlights included the title Gershwin tune from "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Cool" from "West Side Story," and a "Grease" medley. Liza Minnelli was invoked by "Ring Them Bells" ("Liza with a Z") and "Arthur in the Afternoon" ("The Act"). Bass-baritone Mike Kirsch sold "I Got Plenty of Nothing" ("Porgy and Bess"), as did Rhyn McLemore Saver with "Send in the Clowns" ("A Little Night Music").

Many of the songs were uniquely youth-ready (from "Spring Awakening" and "Tick, Tick, Boom") and thespian-friendly ("Happy Feet," "Piano Man"). As Gavin Waters and Rachel Louise Thomas essayed "Everything Old Is New Again" ("All That Jazz"), we seconded that emotion. The rest of the cast included Amy Miller, Alexander "AJ" Ackleson, Brooke Morrison, Brad Surosky , Colin Campbell McAdoo , Dylan Smith, Erika Conaway, Matthew Rossoff, Jessica Lee Coffman , Meggie Cansler , Shaleah Adkisson , Shiloh Goodin, Thomasina Gross, Stephan Stubbins, Tim Roller and Valerie Salgado .

Between numbers, troupe members recited lines penned by the park's authorial namesake. At first Out There feared this tactic would seem hokey, but London was quite profound in some ways. "The proper function of man is to live, not to exist," he wrote. "I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." And: "I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet."

The Transcendence troupers have been key in saving Jack London State Historic Park from closure in 2012, and $5 from every ticket goes to park funds. They end their season with a Gala Celebration Concert on Sept. 8-10. More info:


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