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Transcendence Theatre Company’s ‘Broadway Holiday Spectacular’ hits the stage with instant fun

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If You Go

What: The Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Holiday Spectacular”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7; 2 p.m. Dec. 8

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $39-$139

Information: 707-546-3600, transcendencetheatre.org

_____

What: The Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Holiday Spectacular”

When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14; 2 p.m. Dec. 15

Where: Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville

Admission: $39-$129

Information: 707-944-9900 transcendencetheatre.org

Local audiences have grown used to seeing polished, lively performances at the Transcendence Theatre Company’s annual “Broadway Holiday Spectacular,” opening this weekend at the Luther Burbank Center for its fifth year before moving on next week to the Lincoln Theater in Yountville.

For its holiday shows, Transcendence recruits singers and dancers with Broadway and national touring company credits, as it does with its popular “Broadway Under the Stars” outdoor summer series at Jack London Historic State Park in Glen Ellen.

The company creates new choreography and musical arrangements for each holiday or summer show, drawing on a wide range of music including traditional favorites, standard pop songs, classic show tunes and contemporary hits, all packaged in a professionally produced song and dance revue.

“This year, we’re doing holiday music through the decades in different styles, from Dickens-era caroling through barbershop quartet, minstrel shows and even Madonna, ending with a boy band treatment of ‘I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas,’” said Susan Draus of Denver, serving as conductor this year for her first “Broadway Holiday Spectacular.”

For that kind of work, Transcendence relies on a talented behind-the-scenes team to direct, choreograph and conduct the music, as well as design sets, lighting and costumes. And while that staff plans well in advance, the final holiday production is assembled on the run.

Because the singers and dancers are also busy with Broadway or touring shows, they join the Transcendence show in progress, just in time for a short but intense rehearsal period before they go onstage live with the holiday production.

“The whole thing just comes together in one week of white-hot creativity,” said Mark Wardlaw, who plays clarinet, saxophone and flute in the Transcendence band with his son Jordan.

The elder Wardlaw, who retired last June after 30 years as a music teacher at Santa Rosa High School, has been playing the company’s summer shows for six seasons and has a soft spot for the holiday shows.

“I am not sentimental about the holidays, and Jordan even less so, but there is something so positive and cheerful about the Transcendence holiday show,” he said.

Costume designer Jisaela Tenney, who trained at the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts department, worked on a Transcendence show last summer, but this is her first holiday show with the company. She collected measurements in advance for everyone in the cast, but she didn’t see them in costume until earlier this week.

“It’s really exciting. The adrenaline kicks in. I do everything by text and email until the cast flies in,” Tenney said. “Because this is a contemporary show, instead of a period stage play, I use items from the cast’s own wardrobes, combined with things from our warehouse, and I buy somethings. I am curating looks for them. You need to be calm in the middle of the storm because the show needs to go on. Then the magic happens.”

Wardlaw finds the fast pace exhilarating, if slightly chaotic at times,

“Very often, the staff is finishing their arrangements while we’re in technical rehearsal,” he said. “We’re ready to pounce as soon as we get the charts. The great thing is that noboby else gets to play these arrangements. They’re all new.”

If You Go

What: The Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Holiday Spectacular”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7; 2 p.m. Dec. 8

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $39-$139

Information: 707-546-3600, transcendencetheatre.org

_____

What: The Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Holiday Spectacular”

When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14; 2 p.m. Dec. 15

Where: Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville

Admission: $39-$129

Information: 707-944-9900 transcendencetheatre.org

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