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Transcendence Theatre Company

California Wine Country's premiere entertainment experience

Address: 19201 Sonoma Hwy., #214
Sonoma, CA 95476
Phone: 877-424-1414

Transcendence Theatre Company: Heartfelt Holidays

Michael Wordly, David L. Murray Jr., Devon Perry, Alloria Frayser, Belinda Allyn and Stephen Christopher Anthony in Transcendence Theatre Company's Broadway Holiday

Review by Judith M. Wilson

Photos by Ray Mabry

The holiday season has a way of bringing out all kinds of emotions. Everyone experiences the holidays differently, and Transcendence Theatre explores them in Broadway Holiday with tunes that span the range from pensive to fun. At the outset, the show’s opener, That’s Christmas to Me, conveys the message that the holidays are personal, and the small but engaging cast takes it from there with an eclectic collection of songs that deliver the message in a unique and appealing way.

Michael Wordly heads into traditional territory with a visit to a classic holiday environment with Sleigh Ride, which the Boston Pops performed for the first time in 1948. Next up is Chanukah (Shake It Off), a lively, toe-tapping tune that celebrates the activities of Hanukkah, featuring Belinda Allyn and David L. Murray Jr. Other songs, though, draw on quieter emotions. Christmas Valentine, by Wordly, Allyn and Stephen Christopher Anthony, adds a touch of romance, while Journey to the Past, also performed by Allyn seeks to recapture a better time. Similarly, Alloria Frayser fills the Mariah Carey favorite All I Want for Christmas is You with longing and a wish for what Christmas might be.


Some of the selections are meaningful, but less known to many people, bringing an opportunity for cultural understanding. Ma’oz Tzur, in Act 2, is a poem in Hebrew from the 13th century that Jews sing on Hanukkah after lighting the candles. The words mean “strong rock of my salvation,” and the poem tells the history of the Jewish people and their deliverance from four enemies, adding a serious perspective to the Festival of Lights after the light-hearted rendition of Chanukah (Shake it Off) in Act 1. On the more serious side of Christmas, Bleak Midwinter/Coventry Carol reflects on the holiday’s origin, as well as a new religion’s challenges.

Some of the selections are meaningful, but less known to many people, bringing an opportunity for cultural understanding. Ma’oz Tzur, in Act 2, is a poem in Hebrew from the 13th century that Jews sing on Hanukkah after lighting the candles. The words mean “strong rock of my salvation,” and the poem tells the history of the Jewish people and their deliverance from four enemies, adding a serious perspective to the Festival of Lights after the light-hearted rendition of Chanukah (Shake it Off) in Act 1. On the more serious side of Christmas, Bleak Midwinter/Coventry Carol reflects on the holiday’s origin, as well as the challenges early Christians faced.

Broadway Holiday runs through Sunday, December 10, at the Hanna Center, 17000 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Find out more at www.bestnightever.org.

Be sure to check out Secret Santa giving tree, a program of the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, in the lobby. CVNL is one of Transcendence’s nonprofit holiday partners, and 5% of all wine and beverage sales will go to the Secret Santa program.


Transcendence Theatre Company: Enchantment under the stars

Colin Campbell McAdoo, Michael Callahan, Michael Schimmele, Kyle White, Alloria Frayser in Transcendence Theatre Company’s An Enchanted Evening.

By Judith M. Wilson

Photos: Rob Martel

The combination of music, dance and an exuberant spirit under a clear night sky make the ingredients for an unbeatable experience. And that’s what Transcendence Theatre Company delivers in An Enchanted Evening at Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen.

The show opens with Pure Imagination, a song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, written in 1964 and later adapted as a musical that premiered at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2013. Artistic director Amy Miller follows to welcome the audience and share a quote from another Dahl book, The Mippins, which reflects on the wonder of open eyes and hearts, a condition that allows one to discover surprises and find magic in the world. That sentiment sets the tone for the show, which is filled with unexpected and magical moments.

Whitney Cooper and Kyle White in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, from Pal Joey.

The songs span decades. Among them are One Enchanted Evening from the musical South Pacific, which opened on Broadway in 1949, and The Text Message, which is decidedly 21st century. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, from 1940’s Pal Joey, features Joey Khoury with the beauty and athleticism of Whitney Cooper and Kyle White in dance. Next comes men in suits with bow ties, performing a medley of songs focused on the moon. The scope of the songs demonstrates that while times change, music is enduring and has an amazing capacity to inspire the listener and bring pleasure.

Act two opens with Dueling Pianos, with two grand pianos taking over the small stage and plenty of on-stage action and opportunities for the audience to join the fun. A highlight is an energetic rendition of Margaritaville in a tribute to the song’s creator Jimmy Buffet, who passed away just days before opening night.

Emma Grimsley in Puccini’s Quando M’en Vò.

Alyson Snyder takes the lead in Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which was released in 1973 and certified 2x platinum in 2020. Rolling Stones lists it as one of the greatest songs of all time. Next, in a change of pace, Emma Grimsley performs a heartfelt rendition of Quando M’en Vò (When I’m Gone), a favorite from Puccini’s opera La Bohème.

The show concludes with Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, with Colin Campbell McAdoo channeling the flamboyance of Freddy Mercury in the grand finale to an evening filled with surprises and joy.

Joey Khoury, Nathan Andrew Riley, Alloria Frayser, Emma Grimsley and Taylor Noll in Being Alive by Stephen Sondheim for the Broadway hit Company

Brad Surosky’s creative direction delivers a well-paced show, with a collection of appealing tunes with surprises galore sprinkled in. He makes good use of the small outdoor stage, which includes space for the musicians, in a change from The Full Monty, when the band was at the side next to the audience. He observes that Transcendence Theatre Company has had significant challenges this year, with its usual venue at Jack London State Historic Park unavailable, but the company has adapted remarkably well, taking the show on the road and continuing to delight audiences with an outstanding Wine Country experience. But that, perhaps, shouldn’t surprise us, because it’s part of the professionalism and creativity of what’s become a beloved Wine Country theatre company.

An Enchanted Evening runs on Thursday, Friday and Sunday through September 17 at Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen.

Transcendence Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization that welcomes donations to help underwrite costs. Vicky Soulier is matching all funds throughout the show.

Next up is Broadway Holiday at the Hanna Center, December 1 to 10.

Find out more at https://transcendencetheatre.org/.

Photo: Colin Campbell McAdoo and Alloria Frayser in Summer of '69.




(l. to  r.) Colin Campbell McAdoo, Jesse Nager and Kyle Kemph in The Gala, 2022. Photo: Mimi Carroll

Transcendence Theatre Company announces An Enchanted Evening, its third show of the 2023 season, which will feature songs from hit musicals such as Wicked, Into the Woods, South Pacific, and Beautiful — The Carole King Musical, as well as music from legendary artists including Elton John, Queen, Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Nina Simone, and Billy Joel.

“This is my favorite show of the year where we get to pay tribute to some of the best of Broadway and beyond, with some of the best talent from across the country,” shared Surosky. “The show will take you on a journey of magic, love, friendship, persisting through obstacles, growth, and celebration. It is truly what this community needs right now," said executive director Brad Surosky, who is making his directorial debut with An Enchanted Evening. "There are special arrangements and musical surprises that will delight audiences throughout the show. For instance, two incredibly skilled pianists will open Act 2 with a rousing “Dueling Pianos” section that will rock the stage!”

Photo: (above left), Arielle Crosby, 4th of July performance at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, 2022. Photo: Brennan Spark

An Enchanted Evening runs from September 7 to 17, Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings, at Beltane Ranch, 11775 Sonoma Hwy, Glen Ellen.

The venue opens at 5 p.m.for picnicking, and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for An Enchanted Evening start at $35 and are on sale now. Groups of ten or more save up to 20%. Visit BestNightEver.org or call 877-424-1414 for more information.

Next up is Broadway Holiday, an intimate celebration of holiday cjeer that takes place at the Hanna Boys Center from December 1 to 10.

Photo,(above right): Manna Nichols, 4th of July performance at the Green Music Center, 2022, photo: Brennan Spark


“The Full Monty” — The real skinny

(L to r.) Nicolas Garza (Ethan Girard), Jason Simon (Dave Bukatinsky), Michael Burrell (Jerry Lukowski), Justin Anthony Long (Malcolm MacGregor), and Jesse Swimm (Harold Nichols) in Transcendence Theatre Company’s The Full Monty.

Review by Judith M. Wilson

Photos by Mimi Carroll

Hooting and hollering at the sight of buff young men stripping down to their skivvies is a great way for women to let off steam and enjoy an evening’s entertainment, and it’s a spectacle with the potential for plenty of laughs. In The Full Monty, it also becomes the catalyst for action, as a pair of men down their luck and feeling low find out what the women are up to and decide to put on a show of their own. The musical comedy, based on the 1997 British film of the same name, is funny and sweet with tunes that add spirit, but at the same time it has heartfelt moments, as the men discover their own self-worth and learn what they value most.

The story revolves around desperate dad Jerry Lukowski’s hare-brained scheme to raise some quick money for child support so he can keep his son Nathan in his life. Thus, “The Full Monty is about commitment,” observes Amy Miller, Transcendence Theatre Company’s artistic director. And while Jerry’s commitment to his son is certainly a key theme, the commitment of Transcendence Theatre Company to its community and making sure the show goes on also comes into play. After environmental issues made the company’s usual home at Jack London State Historic Park unavailable this summer, the company pivoted to do a full production of the Broadway hit The Full Monty and An Enchanted Evening, which follows in September, at Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen, adapting to a new venue among the vineyards with a substantially smaller stage and changing its starting time to comply with local regulations relating to noise. Despite the challenges, it all works, and Transcendence makes the transition intact.

(L. to r.) Olivia Oguma (Pam Lukowski), Jasmine Lawrence (Georgie Bukatinsky), Anyae Anasia (Joanie Lish), Sabra Michelle (Susan Hershey), and Carrie Lyn Brandon (Estelle Genovese)

The musical was adapted from the film with book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yasbek, and rather than Sheffield in northern England, the setting is Buffalo, NY, in 1989, after the closure of a steel mill has left its workers frustrated and discouraged. Most have been unable to find work, and they face mounting challenges, so the show has some serious themes, although it’s still a comedy and has plenty of funny moments. It begins with an exuberant Georgie Bukatinsky, played by Jasmine Lawrence, welcoming her friends to Girls’ Night Out at a local club, where the evening’s entertainment is the Chippendales, a roving troupe of male strippers. After discovering where the women are going and how much they’re paying to see other men’s bodies, Jerry (Michael Burrell) and Georgie’s husband Dave (Jason Simon) have a conversation with professional stripper Buddy “Keno” Walsh, played by Tom Berklund, and they decide to do a one-time-only strip show of their own, believing they’ll rake in the cash and earn some much-needed income.

They recruit Harold Nicholas (Jesse Swimm), who was a manager at the steel mill, after seeing his smooth moves in a dance with his wife Vicki, played by Jennifer Byrne (right) and concluding that he can be their teacher. They conduct auditions to find the other men to join them and find successful candidates in Ethan Girard (Nicolas Garza) whose main attribute is his physical endowment, and Malcom McGregor, who is a security guard at the closed mill and can provide a place for the group to rehearse. The men are clearly amateurs with no performing experience, but then along comes a standout to complete the roster. Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, played by Lee Palmer, is a more mature man, but he can feel the music and has the moves. Although the younger men initially dismiss him as too old, they soon learn that he has what they’re missing, and he lifts their spirits in a number called Big Black Man, making the audition surprising and fun. The men’s confidence rises further when they find a way to coordinate their moves in Michael Jordan’s Ball.

Jeannette Burmeister, a seasoned Broadway performer played by Mary Stout, is the group’s pianist, and she is a driving force keeping the men on task, as she astutely observes that planning the show gives them hope. They have their moments of fear and self-consciousness, but they get strength from each other and gain confidence, leading Jerry to announce that they’ll outdo the Chippendales and go “the full Monty,” baring it all.

The mostly young cast is made up of appealing performers, all of who mare new to Transcendence Theatre Company. Among them, Zee Hubbard plays a crucial role as Nathan Lukowski, Jerry’s son, while Mill Valley native Carrie Lyn Brandon makes her Transcendence debut playing Estelle Genovese, Jerry’s love—or perhaps lust—interest. Olivia Oguma portrays Pam Lukowski, whose demands drive Jerry, and whose girls’ night conversation with Georgie gives insight into the men’s mindset.

The stage is limited to 30 inches in height and is small. Nevertheless, with set design by Kristen Martino, it’s flexible enough to serve a variety of purposes, including the club, the union hall, Dave’s bathroom and even a car. An enthusiastic cast with members who pitch in to make scene changes and astute direction and choreography by Josh Walden make the show run smoothly, and Transcendence Theatre Company once again delivers a premium Wine Country entertainment experience.

Jason Simon (Dave Bukatinsky) and Jasmine Lawrence (Georgie Bukatinsky)

The Full Monty runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through August 20 at Beltane Ranch, 11775 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. See a preview at The Full Monty.

Pre-show entertainment begins at 5 p.m., in the picnic area. Food and drink are available on site, and the set-up is much like that at Jack London State Historic Park. Show time is 7 p.m., and the audience faces the sun, so a hat would be useful until sunset. For more information and to order tickets, go to https://transcendencetheatre.org/whats-on/the-full-monty/.

Beginning Friday, August 3, students with valid student IDs can purchase tickets at the box office and save 50% off regular prices in all sections of the theater, except the back row. Tickets are available beginning at 5 p.m., two hours before the show. For more information, visit BestNightEver.org or call 877-424-1414.

Tickets for groups of 10 or more are 10% off, and groups of 20-29 receive 15% off. Groups of 30 or more get 20% off and a private picnic area. For more information, visit BestNightEver.org or call 877-424-1414.


Get ready for "The Full Monty"

When a group of unemployed steelworkers spy on their wives at a girls' night out, they discover that male strippers are the big attraction. With a special motive in mind, they decide to put on their own show, and a heartwarming story unfolds. Join Transcendence Theatre Company for its fully-staged production of the musical comedy The Full Monty, opening on Friday, July 28, and running through Sunday August 20, at beautiful Beltane Ranch. Find out more at BestNightEver.org.

Photos by Richard Termine

Transcendence Theatre Company — The Beat Goes On

Courtney Kristen Liu, Macy Watts,  Elise Frances Daniells, Ariel Neydavoud in The Beat Goes On.

Review by Judith M. Wilson

Photos by Rob Mart

The beat goes on for Transcendence Theatre Company, as it takes the show on the road and moves to *Terra de Belos Cavalos, a horse ranch in Kenwood, for its seasoner opener. The change of venue became necessary, because the company’s usual home, Jack London State Historic Park, is undergoing an environmental review, making it unavailable. From all appearances, the transition is success. The customary outdoor stage, complete with mountains in the background, and pre-show activities are intact, and a spirit of unbridled joy creates an experience to savor.

The Beat Goes On, the first show of 2023, is the title of a Sonny and Cher hit released in 1967, which is a reflection on the way time moves forward, leaving fads behind while retaining behavior that is constant and part of the human condition. The lineup features songs from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, putting them into context with cultural events that define each decade.

Act I begins with a selection of diverse classic tunes from the early 1960s, including You’ve Really got a Hold on Me by Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, At Last by Etta James and, notably, because it fits so nicely with the theme, Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life. Then the Beatniks enter the picture, with Rune Overman’s Beatnik Walk and a poem in the distinctive style of the era. Television was increasingly prominent in the 1960s, and series such as The Flintstones and the Addams Family put in an appearance as well, along with the Ed Sullivan Show, which introduced the Beatles to North America in 1964, launching “The British Invasion” and new styles of music. The Beatle’s I Saw Her Standing There and Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones are highlights of this set. Next come homegrown favorites, such as I’m Gonna Make U Love Me by the Supremes representing Motown, and the Beach Boys with their own special sound in Good Vibrations. And all along, members of the audience are swaying, tapping their feet singing along, clearly delighted by the music and the beat.

David R. Gordon and Aaron LaVigne as the Beach Boys

Life got more complicated by the end of the 1960s, with the escalation of the Vietnam War and subsequent protests, which made their way into music in songs such as the Temptations’ Special Report and Get Together by the Youngbloods. Closing out the decade, a musical milestone in 1969 was Woodstock, and memorable renditions of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and Janis Joplin’s Piece of my Heart are tributes to that era.

Kelly MacMillan performs White Rabbit, a song from the Summer of Love made famous by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.

Woven into the action of a set called Summer of Love is an appearance by Mr. Rogers, who dons his signature cardigan and shares words of wisdom about being neighborly. And the show gives a a tip of the hat to The Brady Bunch, which make its television debut in 1969

Act 2 takes viewers into the 1970s with Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and its message about the lure of riches and Bob Seger’s nostalgic look back at early rock and its simpler, gentler music in Old Time Rock and Roll. In contrast, John Lennon’s contemplative Imagine, with its longing for peace is philosophical. To show the diversity of the era, Transcendence rounds out the retrospective with the disco beat of the late ‘70s

The 1980s brings Prince (Baby I’m a Star), Whitney Houston (I Wanna Dance with Somebody) and Michael and Janet Jackson (Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’ and Rhythm Nation respectively) and MTV, represented by Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing to the stage in the last set of a show that is a densely packed songbook sure to please a variety of musical tastes.

As the music evolves over the decades, so does fashion, and it’s fun to note the costumes, which go from the glamor of the Motown girls to the hippie garb of Grace Slick to Prince’s flamboyant colors. This is a production that pays attention to the details, and while music is the main event, it’s a visual treat too.

The Beat Goes On covers a lot of territory and has the capacity to bring back memories for many people. With singing and dancing, smiles galore, the seamless switching of roles and a few surprises, the ever-engaging cast embarks on a journey back in time using the magic of music. And the audience couldn’t be happier.

Elise Frances Daniells, Jenna Lea Rosen, Tray Wright, Juli Biagi, Joseph Lee, Carl Draper

The Beat Goes On runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 2 at Belos Cavalos, 687 Campagna Lane, Kenwood. A special Pride Night takes place on July 1.

Next up is The Full Monty, which runs from July 28 to August 20 at Beltane Ranch, a historic house and vineyard in Glen Ellen.

For more information or to order tickets, visit BestNightEver.org or call 877-424-1414. Tickets start at $35, and groups of 10 or more save 20%.

*Land of beautiful horses in Portuguese


Sights and Sounds of Summer

Hooray for Hollywood, 2022, back row, l. to r. Joey Khoury, Vasthy Mompoint, Kyle Kemph, front row, l. to r. Arielle Crosby, Adam Kaokept, Courtney Kristen Liu.
Photo by Ray Mabry

The Beat Goes On!
Transcendence Theatre Company kicks off summer with The Beat Goes On alongside the horses and olive grove at beautiful Belo Cavalos in Kenwood. The show, featuring favorites from the 1960s, '70s and '80s includes tunes from the Beatles, the Supremes, Elton John, Madonna and more, opens on Friday, June 16, and runs through July 2. A special Pride Night takes place on July 1.

For more information or to order tickets, visit BestNightEver.org or call 877-424-1414. Tickets start at $35, and groups of 10 or more save 20%.

And mark your calendars for more summer excitement!

Broadway’s hit musical comedy
July 28 to August 20, 2023
Jack London State Historic Park

A magical night of Broadway and beyond
September 8 to 17, 2023
Jack London State Historic Park

See Transcendence Theatre Company and Amy Miller talking about emergence in the arts at TEDx Sonoma County: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byE7V60AJos