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Review – ‘Broadway Under the Stars: Stairway to Paradise’ with Transcendence in Glen Ellen

Jun 21, 2018
by Alexa Chipman


Excitement is palpable on the grounds of Jack London State Historic Park in the afternoon before a performance, with picnicking and wine tasting on the picturesque grounds of Beauty Ranch overlooking vineyards. As the sun sets, Jeffrey Porter’s lighting design casts a riot of color, flickering flames and atmospheric shadows in the winery ruins, to magical effect.

A talented ensemble brings dazzling Broadway numbers into a streamlined production of highlights, using a simple tiered wooden set and costumes designed by Ariel Allen, ranging from dapper suits and floral gowns to casual shorts and sweaters.

“Blue Skies” are indeed shining at Jack London State Historic Park.

Romping through beloved musicals, music director Matt Smart and the orchestra are kept on their toes with headbanging electric guitar, gentle violin, and spunky winds accompaniment, transitioning between pieces with the whisper of a pause.

Director and choreographer Tony Gonzalez builds a sense of community between performers, who often appear onstage simply to observe and support the featured artists, or briefly interact before taking the stage for the next song.

While it is difficult to choose from a buffet of musical excerpts, Libby Servais in “A Wonderful Guy” from ‘South Pacific’ is nuanced and expressive in an open-hearted performance.Shaleah Adkisson’s hilarious “Air Conditioner” about her choices in lovemaking is a treat, and Joey Khoury’s haunting “Edelweiss” from ‘Sound of Music’ lingers in the summer air.

The ensemble of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” in an energetic tribute to Justin Timberlake.

In a moving tribute to last year’s devastating fires, “Oklahoma!” is subtly altered in support of Sonoma County, and the quiet, yet breathtaking “Everything” speaks to experiences that those of us in this county will never forget. Written by Joe Label, Mark Beynon, and Daniel Weidlein, it pays tribute to the courage and love brought out by the events of last October.

‘Stairway to Paradise’ is a relaxing evening of feel-good music, well balanced between spritely toe-tapping rhythm and sweetly emotional ballads. With the depressing news of late, an upbeat, hopeful view of humanity is refreshing and healing. As co-executive director Stephan Stubbins comments, “we are endeavoring to change the world one show tune at a time.”

Stairway to Paradise

Presented by Transcendence Theatre Company through July 1, 2018
Fri/Sat/Sun at 7:30pm
(Opens for picnicking at 5:00pm)

Jack London State Historic Park
2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(877) 424-1414

Photos by Stephan Stubbins

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