By Beulah F. Vega
Transcendence Theatre Company opens their 2022 season with Let’s Dance! Conceived by Luis Salgado, Matt Smart and Amanda M. Stuart, the production offers Transcendence’s standard formula of combining familiar faces and music with dance styles that are new and refreshing.
The show follows a young woman (Mariana Herrera Juri) as she struggles to answer an “audience member’s” (Colin Campbell Mcadoo) question as to why musical theater and dance is important. Utilizing Jack London quotes, musical numbers and bicycling (though sadly not set to the classic Queen song), her explanation concludes with a joyful number titled “The Dance Megamix.”
Director Salgado considers the show to be a multicultural celebration of dance, but it heavily focuses on the Afro-Caribbean roots of Salgado and a New York-based team of Latinx performers. While they do a good job of infusing the music with their own cultural nuances, it is when they are allowed to break free of the tired and overdone “classics” that the performance shines.
The highlight of the evening was Luis Antonio Vilchez Vargas. His dancing has won him recognition from the U.N., and it is easy to see why. He has a natural charisma on stage and works an audience with ease.
Other notable performances come from Emily Yates and Brianna-Marie Bell. If the show had simply starred them, it still would have been worth watching due to their powerful voices and riveting stage presence.
British Performer Simon Pearl is underutilized. He really only comes into his own during the “I Go to Rio” number. It is unfortunate that many of the pieces he and fellow newcomer CorBen Williams could have done went to some of the company’s legacy actors, instead of allowing the newcomers more opportunities.
Outdoor performances are challenging no matter how professional the company. While Let’s Dance! did suffer from some of the usual issues (the wind and the sun), the technical team, for the most part, did an admirable job in difficult conditions. Once Christopher Annas-Lee’s lighting design became visible in the second act, it greatly enhanced the show with the clever use of LEDs to highlight the performances.
Go see this show for its electric second act, the amount of real diversity on stage and Antonio Vargas. Just go see Vargas in anything that you can.
‘Let’s Dance!’ runs Fri-Sun through July 3 in Jack London State Historic Park. 2400 London Ranch Rd, Glen Ellen. Park opens at 5pm; show starts at 7:30pm. $25–$165. 877.424.1414. transcendencetheatre.org