Review of Fascinating Rhythm
By Gary Gonser, SFBATCC
Directed by Eric Jackson
Music Direction by Matt Smart
Choreography by Nick Kepley
For tickets / schedule :
Jack London State Historic Park
Glen Ellen, CA
Transcendence Theatre Company
RUN: August 4-20, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars
(August 4, 2017)
The grounds of Jack London State Park reserved for the Transcendence Theatre always inspires me. A short trek up to the check-in tables and we are greeted by both volunteers and performers who really show they are glad we have come this evening. A little further and we see the valley open up in front of us with tables, booths, food trucks and live music. This is not just another venue space, but a commitment to making the stay here as relaxing and exciting as possible.
This is opening night under a variable sky. The rain has passed and the clouds are making way for stars and a full moon. The local patrons from Sonoma and Santa Rosa told me they would not miss these summer evenings. Many have been coming here for 4 years or more and are quite content to relax into the show with a picnic and some wine.
Slowly, we all make our way into the old winery walls that define the “theatre” and find our seats facing the large stage and vineyard hill behind. Stephan, Brad and Amy greet us with a high energy welcome. The band is onstage for this production, spread across the backstage and ready to start the show. What do they have for us this evening?
The rhythms in this production are varied from the bright “Everything Old is New Again” with Gavin Waters and Rachel Louise Thomas to the tap dancing energy of “Happy Feet.” The orchestra has a particularly rich brass section that comes out in “Happy Feet” for our enjoyment. Janis Snyder assembles some excellent costumes to show off the dancers.
The progression of a song from singer to ensemble comes naturally to Transcendence. Erika Conaway starts the “Song of Purple Summer” and draws her ensemble group onto the stage to fill the early evening with choral music and modern dance. This is the type of music that fills the valley and sky with shimmering song, floating up to the moon above. A little heaven, please.
With the 50th anniversary of the summer of love upon us, Transcendence presents the dueling guitars of AJ Ackleson and Colin Campbell McAdoo with “Summer of 69.” This early rock is mesmerizing and reminds us of the better parts of the 1960s. We can always romanticize about what it would have been like with this music on our minds.
Add “Arthur in the Afternoon,” “Dancing with Myself,” and “Rise Up” for rhythms that are not your Broadway standards and lyrics! The point is to use the talent, music, variety and dance to create fantastic music with a flair for the stage. The little vignettes that spotlight the unusual routines and music build up to the entire company taking over the stage with “Fascinating Rhythm” and act 1 is complete.
The sun has gone down by the intermission, just on schedule for this show. The full moon moves out to help light the entertainment and our hearts. Shaleah Adkisson belts out a mean “Play That Song” with full company backup moving and singing to fill the large stage.
“Baby That is Rock and Roll” pulls out the stops for the band and company. Suddenly the tempo changes to “I Got Plenty of Nothing” with Mike Kirsch. This flow of energy from large to intimate keeps the music and dance fresh for the audience while giving the dancers time to change. The second act continues this segue from large to small to large to keep us on the edge of our seats.
Matt Smart plays a mean piano with “Piano Man” as his baby grand piano moves center stage. The company is drawn out onstage to catch the mood with the audience. Now the sky is dark and the stage takes on a nightclub atmosphere for dance and song. This is perfect for the ebb and flow of the late night rhythms.
“A Sky Full of Stars” and “The World Goes Round” finish up the evening with hope and caring. Transcendence Theatre goes a full circle from the rhythms of 1960s rock to the peaceful rhythms of a thoughtful evening out with friends. It could not be better.
For large vision music and dancing, the Transcendence Theatre Company is making its presence known in the North Bay. Fascinating Rhythm runs through August 20 at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.
$39, $59, $65, $85
Available online at www.transcendencetheatre.org