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Bill Lynch: Confessions of a newfound stage parent

As the sun set behind Sonoma Mountain last Saturday, casting a long shadow on the vineyards rising behind Jack London’s old stone winery, the first notes of Transcendence Theatre Company’s third show of the season, “Fascinating Rhythm,” were struck by the orchestra. It was one of those rousing, all-hands-on-deck, full-company numbers that demands that you tap your feet.

While I sat there tapping away, I realized that I was rooting for the cast like I used to at my kids’ ball games.

Dottie and I have become virtual stage parents of the guest artists who stay with us during the season.

They live in our home for only five or six weeks per show and we understand that they are adults, but we cannot help falling into the kind of relationships we’ve had with our own children; except that these “adopted children” have chosen to pursue a gypsy-like show business career filled with auditions and rejections, trying and failing, and then trying again.

We find ourselves breathing in rhythm with their hopes and dreams and every note and step on stage. We feel in our own hearts the joy that is so plainly on their faces when they are singing and dancing.

Our adopted daughter in this show is Tomasina Gross, who stayed with us briefly last summer before she left to audition for NBC’s “Hairspray Live” (a part she got). Fortunately for us, she was invited back this year.

Tommy was on stage for many numbers Saturday night, including the lead in “Ring Them Bells,” a Liza Minelli hit. We may be biased, but we think she did it better than Liza.

Also in the show were Dylan Smith, who was our guest the season before last, and Erika Conaway, who stayed with us last season. Naturally, we take familial pride in the fact that Dylan and Erika, along with her boyfriend AJ Ackleson, were among the many stars of the evening.

We feel a similar connection to Transcendence founders Amy Miller, Brad Surosky and Stephen Stubbins, and the many regulars who have been with the company every season, including Eric Jackson, who directed this show.

And what a show it is! “Fascinating Rhythm” is a rousing and captivating blend of music and dance that even brought the orchestra to center stage. Not only was the band up there for the entire show, but Music Director and pianist, Matt Smart, took the lead for Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” He was sensational.

Every year there are surprising new guest artists who enrich a cast already overflowing with talent. For me it was Avionce Hoyles, performing “Rise Up,” a moving song about finding strength in the love of another.

And, as if on cue, the full moon, partially hidden for most of the show by a majestic oak above stage right, broke free from the branches to shine directly on a waltz number that was a medley of familiar tunes including the theme from “Game of Thrones” and “Moon River.”

The fact that all of this is presented in Jack London’s old stone winery virtually in our back yards, should be enough to entice every Sonoman to attend.

The show runs for two more weekends through Aug. 20. Purchase tickets on line at BestNightEver.org or in person at 1151 Broadway, Suite 201, Sonoma.

One final tip: Your enjoyment can be multiplied many times by becoming a season ticket holder – even more, if you become virtual stage parents like Dottie and me.