Bill Lynch: Big step forward for Transcendence

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The first time a musical dance number totally captivated my attention was sometime in the early 1950s. The movie musical was “Singin’ in the Rain” staring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.

I was a school kid and took in most of the Saturday matinees at the Sebastiani Theatre. On that particular day, I was disappointed that the show wasn’t a Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy western, but decided to go anyway.

I had no idea what “Singin’ in the Rain” was about, and prepared to be bored, but at least it was a chance to hang out with my friends and eat popcorn.

Surprise! I loved it. Gene Kelly’s dance number in the rain was so inspiring I wanted to set up the sprinklers on my back deck at home and try some of his moves.

Alas, Sonoma boys in those days didn’t do a lot of dancing, except when teachers made us square dance sometimes at school. So I played baseball, basketball and football, which I also loved by the way, and Gene Kelly’s artful and graceful routine became a fond memory, brought to the fore every time I hear the song.

But, it also planted the seed for what grew into a lifelong fondness for musical theater.

No dance routine moved me like that first one, that is, until I saw Transcendence Theatre’s “Those Dancin’ Feet” last weekend.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the show that director/choreographer Roy Lightner masterfully created for the talented cast of our Valley’s own marvelous Broadway theater in the picturesque vineyards of Jack London State Historic Park.

If you don’t have tickets yet, get them. I guarantee that if you are the least bit romantic and like good music, the story, told primarily by the dancers, accompanied by the vocalists, will carry you along on a magical journey that you won’t want to end.

I’ve noted before in other articles, that the best thing about Transcendence Theatre, besides the talent of the artists and dedication and talent of its founders, is that we get to know these gifted performers personally. Roy Lightner is no stranger to Sonoma. Many local people know him from previous shows here that he directed and choreographed. But just getting to know him didn’t reveal the amazing creativity hidden by his engaging personality.

This time, he persuaded the founding executive team of Amy Miller, Brad Surosky and Stephan Stubbins to take a chance and let him put together a real dance-based show that turns a musical upside down.

Where as in most musicals, songs dominate the story while the dancing adds action, color and effect, Lightner’s “Dancin’ Feet” is the reverse. The dancers lead us through a love story while the vocalists accompany them.

And just when we assume that the cast can’t get any more talented, they do. The dancers, especially, will amaze you with their grace, lyrical movement and athletic strength. The excellence of the voices who accompany them add to the impression that this show and this cast could be a hit, right now, on Broadway. They’re that good.

Now, I admit that one of those artists, Dee Tomasetta, is a guest in our home for the duration of the show and that makes me a little bit biased. Dottie and I have noted in amazement how hard Dee has worked not only on her part of the show, but also in working out before and, often, after rehearsals. She is a beautiful dancer, as are her fellow cast members in the show. They give everything they have, preparing to be the very best when the stage lights go on and the band starts to play.

So, I’ll say it again. If you don’t have tickets for Transcendence’s “Those Dancin’ Feet,” get them now. The show runs through Aug. 25 at Jack London State Historic Park.

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