It was April 7, 1934, when the doors first opened for what would become one of the most historic icons on the Sonoma Plaza, the Sebastiani Theatre, with the first movie screened being “The Fugitive Lovers” for a mere entrance fee of 30 cents.
Built in the heart of the Great Depression under the direction of Samuele Sebastiani, it’s just one of the jewels that the Sebastiani family legacy has left Sonoma, and it’s in good shape now, but that was not always the case. In the 1960s, the popularity of television almost brought around the demise of the theatre, with many nights having fewer than seven tickets sold.
In 1983, the City of Sonoma had the chance to purchase the building from Sam Sebastiani, Samuele’s grandson, but opted to let a company from the East Bay purchase the building and entered into a lease with the new owners, who own the property to this day. The Mission Hardware building fire in 1991 almost took the theatre with it, and led to a number of building issues that in 1993, again threatened the demise of the historic single screen theatre, until in stepped Roger Rhoten.
Rhoten negotiated with the new landlords, and not always easily, to make the building repairs and installed a state-of-the-art Dolby sound system and modern projection equipment, all at his own expense.
Since then Rhoten and his wife, Diana, along with numerous “Friends of the Theatre” have kept the theatre afloat with a number of fundraisers and programs that actually make the theatre pay for itself, kind of.
This Saturday, April 19, is another one of those fundraisers, a variety show promising music, magic, dance and more. The show features performances by notable local talents including Tommy Thompson with Cliff Hugo and Gary Vogensen, Jeff Gilbert, known as “The Last Crooner.” Nathalie Tedrick of the Bellydance Superstars, Tobias Weinberger, the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance, the Defying Gravity Gals, vocalist-guitarist Laura Benward, washboard player extraordinaire Peter Babcock, Voices in Our Head, the hauntingly glorious voice of Misty and Roger Rhoten himself, billed as “The Magic Man!” The show kicks off at 7 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the theatre box office. For more info, call 996-9756.
It’s being called the “Spring Celebration” at the Moose Lodge on Saturday, April 19, and will feature a number of local acts, including Fallen Anjel with Alex Garcia and Sven Berrig, Ten Foot Tone, Sue Albano, Lynne Orweller, Don Trotta and belly dancing by Nathalie Tedrick and Lilly Goessling. Showtime is 7 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the door.
The Annex Wine Bar has Dawn Angelosante and Dierdre Egan tonight, April 18, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 19, it’s Kelly Ann Miller also for a 7:30 p.m. show. There is no cover for any of the shows but the venue is 21 and over.
Burgers and Vine has two shows this weekend, starting tonight, April 18, with the No Buenos doing an electric set with a full band. Saturday, April 19, it’s Ragtag Sullivan. Showtime both nights is 9:30 p.m.
The Erik James Tasting Room has music tonight, April 18, with the Left Coast Syncopators, featuring “Snakebite” Jacobs, Tim Eschliman, Kevin Zuffi and Mark Rosengarden, kicking off at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 19, it’s Macy Blackman, also for a 7 p.m. show. There is no cover either night.