Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Transcendence Theatre Company
Review by Patrick Thomas

Also see Patrick's review of Ripcord

The Cast
Photo by Rob Martel.
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

This quote from Jack London is recited in one form or another during every production by the ever-excellent Transcendence Theatre Company. It's fitting not only for this group of highly talented and passionate theatre professionals, but also for local audiences. By that I mean you should use your time—or at least a few hours of it—to make your way to the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Park for their Gala, the final production of the TTC summer season. Because if you don't (and this coming weekend features the final performances, so hurry), you will be missing out on one of the most joyous, entertaining, heart-healing experiences to be found anywhere.

I could spend thousands of words praising virtually every aspect of this show: the singers, the song choices, the choreography, the stunningly-beautiful setting in Sonoma's Valley of the Moon, the swinging octet that brings the rhythm hot and heavy ... That's not to say this is a big, flashy, effects-filled Broadway spectacular. It's not. But it's the perfect show for this venue and this time.

From start to finish, this is one of the best productions ever from Transcendence. The choreography by Luis Salgado (in collaboration with his company and created in just four days of development and rehearsal!) is just right: energetic, imaginative, creative—but without too much flash or attention called to itself. Devin L. Roberts is easily the star dancer, with grace, flexibility, speed and emotion unmatched on the stage. The eight-piece band backing the performers keeps the beat going strong all night long, especially in their take on the jazz classic "Sing, Sing, Sing."

The singers, almost to a person, have some serious vocal chops. Kyle Kemph, who was a revelation in TTC's Road Trip, steps up to the plate again here and knocks every one of his numbers over the fence. His version of "I'm Alive" (from Next to Normal) is alone worth the price of admission: soaring, sensitive, and deeply emotional. Preston Truman Boyd has a gorgeous baritone that provides a lovely contrast to all the tenors and sopranos around him. His rendition of "Hey Kid" is heartfelt and tender—and also puts him first on my list to play the lead if anyone ever decides to write "The Mandy Patinkin Story." And Natalie Gallo puts her stamp on a rendition of "San Francisco" that even Judy Garland herself would have appreciated.

Add to all that the near-perfect event logistics TTC manages to pull off every time. Their technique of putting seat numbers on wrist bands is brilliant, as attendees never have to fumble for a ticket stub or pull it from a pocket or bag to remind themselves of their seating location.

I could go on, but I shall use our time, and not waste it. Please, take this moment to snag one of the few seats remaining for this weekend's final performances, and prepare yourself for what Transcendence Theatre Company boldly (and justifiably) calls "the best night ever."

Gala runs through September 19, 2021, in the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen CA. Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $49-$129, and the top ticket price includes VIP parking, two glasses of wine, and admission to the pre-show lounge. For tickets and additional information, visit