Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Dance the Night Away
Transcendence Theatre Company
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Twelfth Night and A Streetcar Named Desire

“Dance the Night Away”
Photo by Rebecca Call
A thin crescent of moon (with Jupiter hanging nearby) seems to float above the oak-studded hills of Sonoma's Valley of the Moon as some two dozen veterans of Broadway and national tours promenade slowly onto a stage set within the stone wall ruins of a winery, as one of the performers recites Jack London's credo, who purchased the winery and surrounding land in 1905. "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." The evening, however, would soon pivot from this rather earnest entrance to a night of spectacular dancing and wonderful music, ranging from Broadway to Bollywood and from Michael Jackson to Queen.

Dance the Night Away is the second show in Transcendence Theatre Company's Broadway Under the Stars series, now in its fifth year. The setting is magnificent - the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, recognized by USA Today as one of the top "Outdoor Concert Venues You Shouldn't Miss." In the midst of vineyards and rolling hills, it is indeed one of the most delightful and spectacular settings for music you will find.

The producers of Dance the Night Away have filled this lovely space with two hours of terrific, energetic dancing and passionate singing by a large troupe of experienced performers. From a Fosse-style medley of Take Off With Us from All That Jazz and Jet Set from Catch Me If You Can to a touching rendering of Bob Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love to a saffron-colored extravaganza of Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire, artistic director Amy Miller and director Tony Gonzalez have fashioned an experience that immediately brought the audience out of their seats for a well-deserved standing ovation.

There are no false notes or wrong turns in this revue. The costumes (by "costume curator" Janis Snyder) are perfect, with new colors and silhouettes appearing with almost each new number. Beginning with a palate of muted pastels, then on to red and black, then saffron and yellows and oranges (for Jai Ho) to denim and chambray and various blues, the cast always looked terrific. The orchestra (led by musical director Daniel Weidlein) was excellent: tight, always in tune, and always delivering the spirit of each song with tremendous verve.

Just as important, the entire experience of Broadway Under the Stars is as close to perfect as one could reasonably expect. From parking attendants to box office staff to ushers and vendors, everything is handed with efficiency and hospitality. In the troika of al fresco North Bay theatre experiences (this, the Mountain Play, and Marin Shakespeare) Broadway Under the Stars takes the gold medal. Once you arrive, you will find a spacious picnic area, with multiple local wineries and food trucks offering their wares. Or, bring your own picnic. Either way, arrive early (picnic area opens at 5:00pm )and enjoy a most pleasant evening: good food, great wine and wonderful music and dance.

As Jack London's credo continued: "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." Use some of your time to enjoy Broadway Under the Stars.

Dance the Night Away plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings for the next two weekends, August 12-14 and 19-21, with shows at 7:30pm in the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, California. General admission tickets (no reserved seats) are $42, Premium (reserved seats) admission is $79, and VIP (which includes VIP parking, two glasses of wine and admission to the pre-show lounge) is $134. Tickets and additional information can be found at or by calling the box office at 877-424-1414.

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