There’s something about summertime that brings out the best in musical theater. Song and dance can make audiences happy any time of the year, but during the leisure season, fans can experience a special kind of mellow magic.
Two popular summer theater seasons open this weekend — Transcendence Theater Co.’s fourth annual “Broadway Under the Stars” series of musical revues at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, and Summer Repertory Theatre’s 44th season at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Between the two programs, those who love theater can choose from dozens and dozens of live performances throughout the summer, with Transcendence featuring performers with Broadway or national touring company credits, and Summer Rep recruiting college theater students from all over the country.
Transcendence also offers its Artist Series, focusing on talented soloists, both at the park and at two different wineries during the season. And the Transcendence troupe will perform June 24 at Santa Rosa’s Wells Fargo Center for the first time.
“We’re taking ‘Oh, What a Night,’ the first show from our season this year, to Wells Fargo Center, just to broaden our audiences and let more people in the Santa Rosa area know about our shows,” said Amy Miller, the company’s artistic director and chief operating officer.
Transcendence will return to Wells Fargo Center for two holiday performances Dec. 4-5, as part of the same outreach effort, she said.
“That’ll be the first holiday show we’ve ever done, so we’re excited to keep expanding,” Miller said.
Despite its rapid growth, the Transcendence company remains loyal to its home in Jack London Park, where the troupe performs outdoors under the moon and stars in the ruins of a huge old winery building on the park grounds.
“The park will always be one of our venues,” Miller said. “It’s an incredible Sonoma County Wine Country experience all in one night, being in that space on Jack London’s Beauty Ranch, and having the time to enjoy the local wines and food trucks, and be able to picnic.”
The show are as mixture of show tunes, standards and new material, often featuring original arrangements played by the company’s own live band. Miller estimated the company has drawn more than 36,000 people over the past four years from all over Northern California and raised $117,000 for the park.
“Our dream was always to connect with the community and inspire people,” Miller said.
At Summer Repertory Theatre, the company’s most appealing asset is its repertory format, with the same cast and crew working simultaneously on all five shows in the season — both musicals and serious plays — presented in rotation on two different stages.
“We’re producing multiple shows all at the same time,” said SRT’s artistic director, James Newman. “It’s great for audiences, because they get to come into our theaters and see the same actors performing in different shows on any given night. So there’s a real bond that develops between the audience and the actors. People enjoy seeing actors play swashbuckling pirates one night and then come back a few nights later and see those actors playing characters from Jane Austen.”
This year’s shows include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway classic, “South Pacific,” Moliere’s French satire, “Tartuffe” and an adaption of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” as well as the Peter Pan prequel, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” and the hit musical, “The Little Shop of Horrors.”
“This season, we’ve put together a group of really iconic stories,” Newman said.
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts.
TRANSCENDENCE THEATER CO.
“Broadway Under the Stars” series
June 19-July 3: “Oh, What a Night,” $42-$129 on June 19, $42-$129 after that.
July 17-18: “Fantastical Family Night,” $29-$129,
Aug. 7-23: “Rhythm of Life,” $42-$129.
Sept. 11-13: “Gala Celebration,” $42-$129.
All performances start at 7:30 p.m. at Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen.
June 24: “Oh, What a Night,” 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $35-$129. 546-3600, wellsfargocenterarts.org.
July 7-8: “Superheroes in Love,” with Desireé Davar and Nicolas Dromard, 8 p.m., Paradise Ridge Winery, 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drove, Santa Rosa. $35-$75.
July 25: Megan Hilty in concert, 7:30 p.m., Jack London State Historic Park. $42-$129.
Aug. 19: “Off to the Cloud,” with Mark Gindick and Lexy Fridell, 7:30 p.m., Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. $35-$65.
Sept. 2-3: “Imagine,” new and re-imagined music by Transcendence songwriters, 7:30 p.m. Paradise Ridge Winery, 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa. $35-$75.
Information: 877-424-1414, transcendencetheatre.org.
SUMMER REPERTORY THEATRE FESTIVAL
Santa Rosa Junior College
June 19-Aug. 8: “South Pacific,” Burbank Auditorium.
June 23-July 29: “Emma,” Newman Auditorium.
June 27-July 29: “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Burbank Auditorium.
July 7-Aug. 2: “Tartuffe,” Newman Auditorium.
July 10-Aug. 6: “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Burbank Auditorium.
Performances start at 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, plus some 2 p.m. Saturday matinees.
Admission: $15-$25. Ask about special $10 “SRT Cares” performances.
Additional shows: “Cabaret Night,” 8 p.m. July 24, $20, and “Kids Cabaret,” 2 p.m. Aug. 1, $15, both in Burbank Auditorium.
Information: 707-527-4307, summerrep.com.