Transcendence Theatre Company opens 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. The Transcendence playlist includes Broadway show tunes, 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, but sometimes it doesn’t.
The first act ran the gamut from numbers from 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” 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 Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” sung and danced by the entire company.
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 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 grinning 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.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★
‘Stairway to Paradise’ runs Friday–Sunday through July 1. Jack London State Historic Park. 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. Doors open for picnicking at 5pm; show starts 7:30pm. Tickets $45–$150. 877.424.1414. transcendencetheatre.org
Photos by Ray Mabry
An edited version of this review appeared in the North Bay Bohemian