- Barbara Jane Call
- AL FRESCO Broadway Under the Stars is on a roll in its third season.
Continuing to make lightning strike over and over, Transcendence Theatre Company kicks off its third season of Broadway Under the Stars with another toe-tapping, soul-pleasing extravaganza designed to lift spirits and raise money for Jack London State Park.
"Oh, What a Night!"—the first of several shows performed outdoors at Jack London and elsewhere—is a collection of inspiring, moving and uproarious songs and dance numbers borrowed from Broadway and the world of pop music.
You'd think by now the novelty might be wearing off. Not a chance.
Under the artistic direction of Amy Miller, the Transcendence people keep making this work, blending top-tier talent, brilliant programming and a sense of polish and enthusiasm that turns each show into something that's part concert, part dance party, part master class and part old-fashioned tent revival. The spirit of music is definitely present, made both sacred and silly through the infectious way the company brings the musical numbers to life.
Each show is two-dozen tiny moments of pure theater. Characters, brought to life through song, are portrayed by Broadway professionals performing from their souls. And this time there are blasts of colored smoke and a well-timed release of doves to add an extra bit of theatricality.
Highlights include Leslie McDonel's slinky interpretation of "Summertime" (from Porgy and Bess), Julie Craig and Michael Mahaney's lovely duet "Say It Somehow" (from The Light in the Piazza) and a pair of stunningly funny songs by Lexy Fridell ("Miss Byrd," "In My Car"), who teams up later with Stephan Stubbins for a clever condensation of West Side Story, singing all of its songs in six minutes.
Memorably shining a light on Transcendence's goal to inspire and cheer hearts, David R. Gordon and company deliver an original song, "Best Night Ever." Written by Amy Miller, Morgan Karr and Daniel Weidlein, the song nicely encapsulates the Broadway Under the Stars experience with a poetic reminder to always find some music in the present moment, and to use that music to make every moment count.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★★
'Oh, What a Night' runs through July 3 at Jack London State Park. 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. Friday–Sunday. 7:30 p.m. $42–$129. 877.424.1414. www.broadwayjacklondon.com.