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Summer camp kids join 'Broadway Under the Stars' for family night

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If You Go

What: “Broadway Under the Stars – Fantastical Family Night”

When: 5 p.m. pre-show picnicking, 7:30 p.m. showtime, July 13-14

Where: Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen

Tickets: $35-$149

Information: 877-424-1414, transcendencetheatre.org

The “Broadway Under the Stars” live concert series continues this summer with Transcendence Theatre Company directors hard at work, making sure its shortest-running performance, “Fantastical Family Night,” is a unique and worthwhile show.

Transcendence Creative Director Tony Gonzalez, who doubled as director-choreographer for their opening show “Stairway to Paradise” last month, is helping oversee all of this season’s events. A New York City resident, Gonzalez sets the themes, tone and vision.

“It’s not just about storytelling, singing and dancing,” said Gonzalez. “It’s about involving and performing with the community. It’s a wonderful team to be a part of.”

One trait that makes the family night event special is to include Broadway and national touring professionals, alongside some youngsters. It’s a tradition to have participants in the annual Transcendence Kids Camp go onstage with their leaders and cast.

Kids Camper Ty Schoeningh, a 12-year-old from Sonoma, has enjoyed working with so many talented artists and vocalists. He’s learned a lot from them, like how to sing and dance better. Perhaps what makes it most exciting is that this isn’t his first year at camp.

“I was with them two years ago,” said Schoeningh. “I couldn’t do the camp last year, but now I’m doing it this year.”

The kids have what Gonzalez said is “VIP seating,” because they get to be on the bleachers right next to the stage, which is a spot where no patron is ever allowed to sit. Being split into three groups depending on their age, they all get to perform at different times.

Ranging from 8 to 18 years old, the family show continues to evolve coming into its seventh year, with camp kids having more involvement this time, thanks to first-time director-choreographer Matthew Rossoff.

“He’s a phenomenal leader and creator,” said Gonzalez, “Matthew has a wonderful support staff helping in the music and dance department. It’s going to be a great group.”

Part of the camp program involves each group of kids working with artists to create their own original songs, where one or two of those tunes will end up in the show, according to Gonzalez. The main 19 selected tracks are on the website’s link in a Spotify playlist.

These include songs from movie soundtracks like “Coco,” “The Greatest Showman” and “The Little Mermaid,” to Broadway hits “Pippin,” “Company” and “Newsies,” with a mix of classics from music artists Nina Simone, Judy Garland and Michael Jackson.

“It was really cool. It gave us a really good chance to be creative,” said Schoeningh. “It was really fun to do and work with everyone in my group. I was a part of the percussion.”

While Schoeningh hinted at being able to perform their original song and some from “The Lion King,” it’s not clear what the other two groups will sing and dance to, but everyone will be under the “big top” for this vibrant and fun showcase.

During the week he gets to meet performers as they’re working together. Gonzalez considers Transcendence concerts to be well-rounded, combining musical theater, Broadway and in the case with this show, popular songs and some Disney, which kids like.

“Fantastical Family Night” also features a pre-show picnic, face painting, various games and entertainment, and is specially priced for children under 18. Every ticket sold contributes $5 toward the support and maintenance of Jack London State Historic Park.

If You Go

What: “Broadway Under the Stars – Fantastical Family Night”

When: 5 p.m. pre-show picnicking, 7:30 p.m. showtime, July 13-14

Where: Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen

Tickets: $35-$149

Information: 877-424-1414, transcendencetheatre.org

“It has an added bonus of family activities for kids,” said Gonzalez. “The concert itself is more of a Broadway-style show, with dancing and singing geared toward family.”

This program also helps introduce live entertainment at a young age. Like taking the kids to a baseball game or other new experiences, Gonzalez sees it as the perfect opportunity to find out if it’s something a child is interested in. Yet, that came easy for Schoeningh.

Since he grew up with his sister who loves singing, sometimes he would opt to join in with her. Schoeningh was used to it at home, which eventually led to him being fascinated by the arts. He attended The Theater School where he met founder Libby Oberlin.

“I tried a new thing, and I fell in love with acting,” said Schoeningh. “I started to do auditions at Sonoma Arts Live and perform plays at the community center. It’s really fun.”

In addition to his work with Transcendence Theatre Company, Gonzalez is also a choreographer for this summer’s St. Louis Stages production of “Mamma Mia!” and the new “Rock of Ages,” which commemorates the show’s 10th anniversary.

It’s a special thing to produce something that will only be seen for two nights only, compared to the other performances that run anywhere from three to 17 days. He worked with Rossoff and artist Jessica Coffman, as the creative team who helped plan this show.

“They’ve been working very hard,” said Gonzalez, “and their creative juices have been flowing to produce a really exciting night.”

Gonzalez served as director-choreographer for two of Transcendence’s “Broadway Under the Stars” productions and for the 2017 “Broadway Holiday Spectacular” at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. He said it feels amazing to return this summer.

He’s also scheduled to appear in the “Gala Celebration” show that ends the Transcendence Theatre Company’s annual “Broadway Under the Stars” season the weekend of Sept. 7-9.