Review: ‘Shall We Dance’ by Transcendence Theatre Company (****)

by Gary Gonser

Company of “Shall We Dance”, presented by Trascendence Theatre Company as part of the summer series, “Broadway Under The Stars.” Photo Credit: Ray Mabry.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Jack London’s Credo, “the function of man is to live,” is translated into dance for delighted audiences in this resplendent production.  Salsa, French, Romantic, Tango, 60’s Jive, 40’s Jive, Modern, Broadway musical, and cool.  Seventeen dancer/singers are backed-up with a band of twelve that plays the hot and the cold with luxurious ease, under the musical direction of Daniel Emerson Weidlein.

Transcendence makes its mark again with professional clarity and smoothness, presenting “Shall We Dance” (the first of the summer season’s Broadway Under The Stars series of shows) in the magical setting that is the Jack London Park in Glen Ellen.  With the vineyards in the background and a multi-layered stage under old oaks and a setting sun, it’s as if there are no limits to the space.  The dancers and singers fill the night with waves of music and movement, defined by the tight choreography by Marc Kimelman and his associate, Aimee Lane.

The performance opens, appropriately, with “Be Our Guest,” from “Beauty and the Beast.”  Other numbers include music from “In the Heights,” “Moulin Rouge,” and even “Hamilton.” Aimee shows us her dancing prowess with her Puerto Rican and Bossa Nova dance steps.  Jessica Coffman  lead dancing in “Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge,” and in “Italian Vogue” helped to pull these numbers together.

Stephanie Jae Park sparkled in many of the ensemble numbers, and in the one solo piece of the evening, “Dancing on My Own,” arranged by Matt Smart.  Carl Draper and A.J. Ackleson led many ensemble pieces with their expert dancing, especially in dramatic ensemble dances for “Roxanne” and “Room Where It Happens,” from “Hamilton.”

The many dance styles presented in “Shall We Dance” illustrate the flexibility of Transcendence.  Cast members come to Sonoma to work with the company and have fun,  bringing experiece both on Broadway and in national tours. The resulting dances and song illustrate their talent and upbeat attitude.  There is never a time for sitting one dance out, as the audience is moving and singing along with the cast at every turn.

“Shall We Dance” is a smooth and entertaining celebration of Broadway dance that audiences will certainly enjoy.

 “Shall We Dance”runs through August 19 at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. For further information, click here

Rating: **** (for an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)


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