Unless you’ve recently dropped ten bucks into the little yellow self-parking envelopes, it is more than likely you are hoping governor “Moonbeam” Brown will have a change of heart as to the closure of some 70 state parks this year. Now, back to reality. So who is actually saving our parks? The rescue effort is due largely to private and nonprofit groups stepping up to make sure they stay open to the public. Groups like the Team Sugarloaf have partnered to keep Sugarloaf State Park open. Meanwhile, private businesses like Santa Rosa’s Bike Monkey are holding well-known events such as the Annadel XC, which brought in $55,000 last year to assist the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department with Annadel park operations.
When Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen was placed on the park closure list, the disappointing action prompted a direct response from the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association. The group secured the first nonprofit contract to operate a California State Park and has been hosting wine tastings and auctions with neighbors Benziger Family and Imagery wineries to help offset operation costs. But one-time events and charging higher parking fees are not sustainable. So ideas bounced around until a troupe of eclectic Broadway and Hollywood actors showed up on the doorstep of Jack London’s cottage in early May. Soon the Transcendence Theatre Company and VMNHA were united by their love of live theater and community. “Broadway Under the Stars” was born and the 2012 inaugural season has begun.
Last night’s third performance drew roughly 250 people, seated in audience format within the ruins of Jack London’s winery. Framed by hundred-year-old stone walls, the venue sits under a cathedral of stars. The visual aesthetic and outdoor acoustics invite the audience to engage not only with the stage actors but also with the beauty of nature itself.
The show began just before sundown. “Dream the Impossible Dream”, the first of four productions this summer, featured numbers from Wicked, Anything Goes, Crazy for You, Chorus Line and Funny Girl. From the onset, the stage lit up with nearly twenty professional Broadway and Hollywood singers and dancers. Charismatic young men and women sang and danced through twenty-eight short acts, including impressive tap numbers, solo performances and duets.
Darryl Semira’s rendition of Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” and Tinuke Oyefule’s “Moon Dance” were exceptional. Sans vocals, the tap dancing duet of Melissa Giattino and Ron DeStepfamo received elated audience response. Their performance created a youthful excitement in the all-ages crowd – people were literally bopping around in their seats to the famous brass melody of “Sing, Sing” Sing” by Benny Goodman.
The opening and finale acts feature the entire company. Together, their masterful harmonies show off the true complexity and talent of accomplished vocalists. From such famous musicals as “Les Miserables”, “42nd Street”, and “Mamma Mia”, the actors of “Broadway Under the Stars” offer a delightful opportunity to engage in genuine live theater while helping to preserve Jack London State Park.
Tags: Glen Ellen, Jack London State Park, Live theater, Transcendence Theater Company