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Transcendence opens with a splash

TRANCENDENCE THEATRE COMPANY opened its 2014 summer series at Jack London State Historic Park Friday evening with “One Singular Sensation.”  The 2014 Broadway Under the Stars concert series, through Sept. 6, will include four separate themed concerts, totaling 16 nights of performances, wine tasting, and pre-event picnics in the park. All events begin with a pre-show picnic at 5 p.m., with food and wine for sale from various vendors on site, with a 7:30 p.m. show time. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

TRANCENDENCE THEATRE COMPANY opened its 2014 summer series at Jack London State Historic Park Friday evening with “One Singular Sensation.” The 2014 Broadway Under the Stars concert series, through Sept. 6, will include four separate themed concerts, totaling 16 nights of performances, wine tasting, and pre-event picnics in the park. All events begin with a pre-show picnic at 5 p.m., with food and wine for sale from various vendors on site, with a 7:30 p.m. show time. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

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No one in the audience of the Transcendence Theatre Company’s opening night performance was surprised to hear that USA Today had rated the company’s “Broadway Under the Stars” concert series at Jack London State Historic Park as one of the 10-best “Outdoor Concert Venues You Shouldn’t Miss.”

The rating placed the production of Broadway and Hollywood stage and screen veterans second on a list of 14.

A cheer went up from the sold-out crowd when Artistic Director Amy Miller made the announcement at the start of Friday’s opening program, “One Singular Sensation.”

The Glen Ellen event, held in the open-air winery ruins embraced by old stone walls that open onto vineyard views on the flanks of Sonoma Mountain, is in the third year of a contract running through 2019. The performances of the nonprofit troupe have so far raised some $72,000 to support Jack London State Historic Park, which is now being operated as a joint, public-private partnership with the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association. Prior to the partnership, the park was on a list of 70 state parks slated for closure during the height of the state budget crisis of the past four years.

The company’s 2014 season includes three more productions of the opening show, a two-night production of “Fantastical Family Night,” which includes performances by members of the Transcendence children’s camp; a six-performance production of “Music of the Night,” between Aug. 14 and 24; and the season-closing Gala Celebration, on Sept. 5 and 6.

In between the all-cast shows is a program of special “artist series” headlined by an Aug. 9 one-man show by Tony Award-winning singer-dancer Ben Vereen. Also appearing in special shows will be Sonoma Valley’s own Lexy Fridell in “Brace Yourself” on July 12 and 13 at Chateau St. Jean Winery: Singer/songwriters Carrie Manolakis and Morgan Karr on Aug. 1 and 2 at Landmark Vineyards. Manolakis has achieved global fame with her rendition of the Radiohead song, “Creep,” and was cheered by a crowd of 100,000 when she sang the national Anthem at the start of the Sonoma Raceway NASCAR race June 22.

Also on the artist series agenda is “Witness Uganda,” a compelling concert of Afro-pop music and social commentary on Aug. 19, that asks the question, “Can the world really be saved?”

Finally, Transcendence stars and founding members Stephen Stubbins and Leah Sprecher will present a night of “duets, vignettes and jazz hands” in a special performance at Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa on Aug. 28.

Besides the numerous concerts on the summer-long program, Transcendence Theatre Company members, now home-based in Sonoma, have presented numerous programs and fundraising events for Valley nonprofits as part of a mission to spread joy and happiness through music and dance.

Complete details on the company’s season can be found at TTCsonoma.org.

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