The Traveling Spectacular opens at Cornerstone Sonoma

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The Traveling Spectacular will be performing at Cornerstone in Sonoma this summer, beginning June 2. They will perform five weekends from June to October, doing two shows Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days.

Tobias Weinberger has been an entertainer ever since he was 11 years old, standing in front of the Sebastiani Theatre performing magic before the movies would start.

Weinberger moved from Massachusetts to Sonoma when he was 11, when his parents Andy and Lilla Weinberger opened Readers’ Books off the Plaza. His interest in magic had just started before he moved – he had borrowed a magic kit from his neighbor in Massachusetts and fell in love with the store Tannen’s Magic Shop in New York City.

When he arrived in Sonoma, Sebastiani Theatre manager Roger Rhoten took Weinberger under his wing, and his life in magic began. Now, 27 years later, Weinberger has his own unique show called the Traveling Spectacular and its launching a string of summer shows June 2 at Cornerstone.

After his magic phase and during his years at Sonoma Valley High School, Weinberger was in a group called the Oddvillian Sideshow. Still using the Sebastiani as his practice stage and Rhoten as his mentor, he expanded his skill set to not just magic, but eating fire, laying in broken glass and nails, eating lightbulbs, or anything that had a big shock value.

After graduation in 1998, Weinberger spent nearly 12 years as part of the Yard Dogs Road Show. The group was quite successful and toured all over the country and in Europe.

“That was the predecessor to the show I’m doing now,” he said. “A lot of what I do now is inspired by and in a way a spin off of the Yard Dogs, but I’m the creative director of this show, whereas the Yard Dogs was a complete collaboration with 13 crazy people. Now I have the last say in everything.”

Despite its Yard Dogs inspiration, Weinberger insists this show is different.

“It’s a totally different show,” Weinberger said. “There are elements that are the same, as there is live music and dancers, but there is a lot more of me in the show. Also Yard Dogs was more rock ‘n’ roll — and this show still has it’s edgy elements — but it is more family oriented than the Yard Dogs.”

This family development came about two years ago, when he and wife Janne had a baby boy.

“So that’s kind of a new adventure for me, and that translates into my show as well,” Weinberger said. “Like for one, I can’t stay out as late as I used to. Yard Dogs was night club to night club — drinking — and you can’t do that with a kid. So the show has naturally just become more family oriented.”

Once the Yard Dogs came to a close, Weinberger didn’t want to stop performing, so the natural evolution was to create his own show.

Weinberger spent five years creating the “truck” that turns into a stage – in order to give it the traveling, “medicine man” type of feel. The stage was such a big hit that he actually rents it out as part of his business. The one hour vaudeville road show includes a live band — the Oddjob Ensemble — dancers, a devil character that eats fire and throws knives, illusions and magic, sword swallowing, comedy and more.

“It’s a real homegrown show,” Weinberger said. “Pretty much everyone is local — the devil and the mermaid live in Vallejo — but everyone else is from Sonoma County.”

The Traveling Spectacular will be performing at Cornerstone in Sonoma this summer, beginning June 2. They will perform five weekends from June to October, doing two shows Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days.

They started performing as an ensemble three years ago and have performed for weddings, winery events, music festivals, street fairs, maker fairs, gala events and even performed at the San Francisco Exploratorium.

“It appeals to different types of people for different reasons,” Weinberger said. “Everything is made by hand. It’s a real throwback to another era because everything is so techno these days, I think it’s refreshing for people to see live entertainment. Even though it’s old, it feels new.”

Despite being the boss, Weinberger has no interest in the business side of the company – “the mundane stuff” – instead he just does what he has to so he can keep performing.

“I’ve never really looked at my performance life as a business,” he said. “I never got into this to make money, I just got into magic because I loved it. That’s the challenge in this modern day, how do you make a living pursuing your passion and stay happy and sane at the same time. It’s still a hard way to make a living. Not everybody wants a sword swallower at their wedding.”

Every season he makes changes to the show to keep it evolving, keep it interesting. His favorite part is creating acts that invoke wonder, amusement and joy.

“It’s a dreamlike show, it’s very surreal,” Weinberger said. “Our goal is kind of to carry people away for an hour, have people enjoy themselves. There is enough things for people to worry about, so our job is just to whisk people away for an hour, help them reconnect to that feeling of wonder. I think we can all use a dose of that in our lives.”

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