it means we have been inspired, either with a new idea or with a new sense of energy and excitement.
Theater has long been in the business of inspiration.
It feeds off of it, and also causes it, in a remarkable endless loop of creativity.
Which brings me to the Transcendence Theater Company, and Broadway Under the Stars.
Continuing their own mysterious knack for making lightning strike over and over, Transcendence Theater has just kicked off its third full season of Broadway Under the Stars shows, with yet another toe-tapping, soul-pleasing, one-hundred-percent inspiring, music-and-dance extravaganza designed to lift our spirits and raise some money for the gorgeous local treasure, the Jack London State Park.
“Oh, What a Night!” – the first of several shows performed outside at Jack London and elsewhere this summer – is a wonderful, witty collection of songs and dance numbers, borrowed from big and little Broadway shows and from the world of pop music.
One might ask the question, how often can these folks keep making the same thing work, assembling songs into shows that don’t just entertain and keep our attention, but also send us home wondering what we might do to make the world a happier place.
Under the artistic direction of Amy Miller, the Transcendence people show no signs of stopping or soon ending their lightning strike record. By blending top-tier talent, endlessly clever ideas, brilliant programming, and a persistent sense of professional polish and contagious enthusiasm, they just keep turning these shows into something special. Think of it as part concert, part dance party, part master class, and good part old-fashioned tent revival.
“Oh What a Night!” runs for two more weekends out at Jack London, and for one-night-only tonight, at 7:30, at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. Transcendence will follow it up with a whole bunch of other shows, large and small, spread out over the rest of the summer, with a special one-night-only appearance in July by Megan Hilty.
Highlights of “Oh What a Night!” include Leslie McDonel’s gorgeously slinky interpretation of Summertime (from Porgy and Bess), a lovely duet of Say it Somehow (from A Light in the Piazza) performed Julie Craig and Michael Mahaney, and a pair of stunningly funny songs by Lexy Fridell – Miss Byrd, in which she dances with an office chair, and In My Car, in which she does things with her face and voice you have to see to believe, Fridell teams up later with Stephan Stubbins for a clever condensation of West Side Story, singing all of its songs, and telling the story, in just six minutes.
Another crowd-pleasing medley brings to life the manic-depressive emotions of a typical high school prom, with half-a-dozen classic dance tunes acted out and sung by the cast.
Ultimately, the show is more than just another presentation of the patented Transcendence Theater magic, it’s an event, deliberately and admittedly aimed at inspiring us all to go out and make our own magic in the world. Even the port-a-potties are inspiring, festooned inside with uplifting quotes from great minds.
Whether outside at Jack London or indoors at Wells Fargo, “Oh What a Night” lives up to its name.
“Oh! What a Night!” runs tonight, June 24 at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, and then continues weekends through July 3 at Jack London State Park. www.broadwayjacklondon.com has all the info on this summer’s Transcendence shows. Check it out.
I’m David Templeton, Second Row Center, for KRCB.
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