Aug 12, 2019
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
The hallmark of Transcendence Theatre Company since their earliest shows has been the musical revue, that they do so extremely well— mixing Broadway and Pop, standards and the newest hits, in modern and fresh arrangements and staging. Add triple-threat performers from professional stages around the country, and you have a sure-fire formula for a thrilling success of a show. Those Dancin’ Feet is another notch in the TTC belt, emphasizing dance and choreography alongside superb vocals, with energetic and entertaining effect.
Director Roy Lightner constructs an overall narrative and concept for the revue that adds to the enjoyment, giving a context for the songs that are occasionally surprising but always consistent with the show’s theme of love, connection, and forgiveness. A new twist pairs singers with dancers representing a single character— the dancing providing the visual story that advances the narrative, with the song as the emotive backdrop for the action.
For example, in “I’ll Cover You” (from Rent), Kayley Anne Collins and Michael Dashefsky sing the declaration of love in the duet, while Alex Hartman and Colin Bradbury act out in dance the growing relationship. This device works well when the singers are mostly static, or staged directly behind the dancers, but often results in a split focus for audience members trying to choose who to watch, dancers or singers.
The singers act, of course, in the delivery of their songs, and their interactions are compelling; but if one watches them, then one misses the dancing. It can sometimes feel like a tennis match, constantly switching focus. But overall the narrative and theme of each number come through beautifully, presenting a visual and aural feast.
Don’t stress about missing anything, as clearly that’s part of the concept— you’ll relax and enjoy the spectacle more.
The staging proves memorable in solo dances and in pas de deux numbers, but also in groups, such as the fantastic rendition of“When Your Mind’s Made Up” from Once. The fun is there in“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and then suitably touching in“I Can’t Make You Love Me.” When the full company comes on, as in the finale of“ I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” it’s hard to stay in your seat.
The company is an excellent ensemble, as always— so many great performances it’s difficult to single out individuals. But I’ll never forget the stellar vocals of perennial favorite Meggie Cansler Ness in a heartfelt rendition of“All by Myself,” and she’s joined by stunning vocalistKayley Anne Collins who more than once gave me goosebumps.
Neil Starkenberg and Will Ray possess such outstanding voices that it’s exciting to hear them nail contemporary numbers. Erika Conaway totally rocks as the club singer on“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody,” and Michael Dashefsky knows how to tug those heartstrings.
All the dancing is phenomenal— if you’re a fan of contemporary choreography, you’re in for a special treat, as choreographers Lightner, Chip Abbott and Sara Brians have pulled out all the stops for this show, demanding the very best from their performers, all of whom are amazingly talented.
Alex Hartman and Colin Bradbury are featured throughout— paired perfectly, they execute several dazzling duets while acting out one of the central stories. Dee Tomasetta shows her strength in duets Croix Dilenno and David Grinrod and in solos (“Quiet,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”). Katie Call and Drew Fountain make a cute couple who tear up the stage with great moves.
You get the idea— so many terrific performers, so little space.
This one is sure to sell out, so don’t delay getting your tickets. It’s a welcome cure for midsummer malaise, and a sparkling gift for lovers of Broadway-style performance.
Directed/Choreographed by Roy Lightner, Music Direction by Matt Smart
Presented by Transcendence Theatre Company through August 25, 2019
Fri/Sat/Sun at 7:30pm
Jack London State Historic Park Glen Ellen, CA 95442
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