Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Transcendence Theatre Company

Also see Patrick's recent review of The Cher Show

Sharone Sayegh, Aaron Lavigne, Jesse Jones,
Andy Saehan Shin, Usman Ali Mughal,
and Mia Gerachis

Photo by Rob Martel
Sonoma County has some of the most gorgeous scenery in the country, if not the world. Rolling golden hills studded with oak and manzanita, lush green vineyards riding the hillocks with curvilinear flair, and charming towns like Healdsburg and the host of this season's productions from Transcendence Theatre Company, the village of Sonoma. For most of its history, TTC has staged their shows at the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Park near the minuscule hamlet of Glen Ellen. Sadly, due to some political and legal wrangling that site–stunningly beautiful and dramatic as it is–is out. At least for this summer.

So, for their latest musical revue (TTC's speciality, although they have staged two musicals), the company had to find a new venue. Last summer's temporary home, the Beltane Ranch, was ill-suited to the purpose of an outdoor musical celebration. After some persuasion on the part of TTC Executive Director Brad Surosky (and welcome cooperation from the mayor, city council, and manager of Sonoma–many of whom were welcomed onstage at the top of the show as a nod to their influence), the company found a new temporary home at the "Field of Dreams" (also known as Fazio Field), a local baseball field just a few blocks off the town's main plaza. WIth a stage at home plate and the audience filling the infield, Summertime, the first of their four planned productions this season, had a home, and opened last evening for a brief, four-show run, ending this Sunday.

As proven in the past, the team assembled by Transcendence Theatre Company are consummate professionals. The ticketing, parking, shuttles, and all the other logistical stuff is, as Bruno Mars says, "smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy." The cast of 10 is somewhat smaller than in seasons past, but there seems to be a more consistent level of excellence. Where in years past a voice or two might have been a little thin or pitchy, there are no weak points in the cast of Summertime. Yet this first production unfortunately let me down on several levels.

TTC usually finds a thematic thread for their revues–nothing resembling a plot, but more than a mere commonality between the songs to tie the show together. But with Summertime, the only thing really connecting the songs is that they are mostly about summer and its joys. Even with this, some of the numbers–delightful as they are, seem untethered to even this slip of a theme.

Then there are the costumes. Or, more accurately, a notable lack of costumes, for–with few exceptions–the cast seems to be attired in garb they pulled from their own closets. And there is an odd–yet still entertaining–break in act two, when Surosky hosts an onstage version of the '70s-era game show, "The Match Game," with cast members as "celebs" and a couple of audience members as contestants. Despite its charm, what's its tie to summer? Or music, or dance?

If you're new to Transcendence, you probably wouldn't notice anything lacking. The cast has tremendous energy, the band is tight, and the entire staff greet you like old friends. But if you've been before, you will miss the raw beauty of the Winery Ruins venus.

The cast, while exhibiting a high level of excellence overall, does have a few standouts. The first is Aaron Lavigne, who is a vocal powerhouse equally at home with a tender ballad as he is with a rock anthem. (OK, he might be a little more at home with the anthem, but we're picking nits here.) The second terrific performer is the "big things in small packages" Sharone Sayegh. In addition to her million-watt smile and eyes that seem to say, "I'm so happy to meet you!," she has a lovely alto over which she seems to have complete control. Finally, Michael Schimmele shows off a pleasant baritone with a gorgeously woody tone, as well as a joyous exuberance on stage.

Summertime only runs through this Sunday, but if you miss this one, you can still catch TTC's remaining efforts in July, August and September.

Summertime runs through June 23, 2024, at Field of Dreams, 151 First Street W, Sonoma CA. Performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $70-$185. "Gold Level" tickets include VIP parking, two glasses of wine and admission to the pre-show lounge area. For tickets and information, please visit