Theatre Review: Transcendence Theatre Co.s “Shall We Dance”


The Cast of Shall We Dance
Photo by Ray Mabry

The Broadway show Something Rotten!, which takes place in the time of Shakespeare, features a number entitled “A Musical,” in which Thomas Nostradamus predicts the rise of a whole new form of entertainment where actors will suddenly break into song, and chorus lines will engage in energetic, synchronized tapping. “Does it advance the plot?” another character wonders. When told “no,” they ask “Then why do you do it?” and the answer comes back swiftly: “Because it’s entertaining!”

This number came to mind during the performance of Shall We Dance, the second show in the seventh season of Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Under the Stars” series. There are two reasons for this. First, the number wraps up the first act of this charming revue by a cast of talented performers, many with Broadway credits. Second, it sums up perfectly the pleasures of this show. Shall We Dance? has no commentary on the human condition, it’s not a metaphor for anything, and it doesn’t attempt to satirize our social or political structures. All it wants to be is entertaining. And in this it succeeds mightily.

“Best Night Ever” is a sort of tagline for Transcendence Theatre Company (you can buy a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase). When you take into account the whole experience—the gorgeous setting (in the ruins of a winery set amid vineyards and rolling hills), the marvelous pre-show picnicking, and the smooth-running parking and will call operation, as well as the onstage professionalism—this boast is very close to true. If you love Broadway (and wine), there are few better ways to spend a summer evening.

Though the series is entitled “Broadway Under the Stars,” and the songs performed range from classics of the Great White Way (“On the Street Where You Live” and “Shall We Dance?”) to more contemporary Broadway tunes (the aforementioned “A Musical,” “Be Our Guest” and “Mama Who Bore Me”), the producers have included a range of other songs, including Madonna’s “Vogue,” the jazz classic “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

The cast is solid, delivering wonderful, energetic performances with undeniable joy. The dancing is fast, precise, flowing—and marvelously choreographed by Marc Kimelman and his assistant Aimee Lane.

Everything about the “Broadway Under the Stars” experience is realized with efficiency, professionalism, and hospitality. There is a spacious picnic area (reserve ahead), with large umbrellas over each table, multiple local wineries and food trucks selling their wares, and light jazz as pre-show entertainment. Arrive early (picnic area opens at 5:00pm), or spend the afternoon in Sonoma wine country, and create one of the most enjoyable day trips the Bay Area has to offer. One could indeed call it the “best night ever.”

Shall We Dance plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings for the next two weekends, August 11-12 and 18-19, 2018, with shows at 7:30pm in the Winery Ruins at Jack London State Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, California. Tickets range from $45-$150. The top ticket includes VIP parking, two glasses of wine, and admission to the pre-show lounge. Tickets and additional information can be found at