Top New York Dancers Bring ‘A Chorus Line’ To California’s Wine Country

by Michael Mahany | 5/22/2019 4:20 AM

New York City-based choreographer Jim Cooney teaches Sonoma, CA residents the choreography from ‘A Chorus Line’. Photo credit: TTC.


Transcendence Theatre Company, a professional theatre company based in Sonoma, California, is certainly well known and loved in the northern part of the state’s wine country region, but the company’s reputation as a place to create invigorated and re-envisioned theatre is spreading quickly.


While Transcendence often brings in New York City talent for their outdoor ‘Broadway Under the Stars’ concert productions, this year’s season is kicking off stronger than ever. Not only is the group presenting its first fully staged book-musical with an outdoor reimagined version of ‘A Chorus Line’, but Tony Award-winning actress and dancer Donna McKechnie is coming to town to kick off the summer with stories of her time with the iconic musical.



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The company is widely respected for both its dedication to community service and its ability to harness A-list New York and LA talent to perform in its remarkably intricate and artfully shaped concert stagings of popular music and show tune reviews, but this venture into presenting a fully staged book-musical is a big leap into the unknown.


Artistic Director and Founder of TTC, Amy Miller — who is also directing the piece — hired veteran New York City choreographer Jim Cooney to set the dance sequences to the musical.


“I’m so excited to bring the first book musical to Transcendence audiences, and I can’t think of a better fit than ‘A Chorus Line’,” Cooney told Dance Network. “The choreography in this show is among the most iconic in the entire Broadway musical canon, so it’s very special to share it with Sonoma.”


Cooney, who most recently choreographed ‘Shooting Star’ at LA’s Hudson Theatre, is known for his work choreographing in New York City at venues like City Center Encores, The Hammerstein Ballroom, The Vineyard Theatre and more. He’s also a faculty member at Broadway Dance Center.

The theatre company itself, which utilizes the winery ruins inside Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic Park was critical in saving the California outdoor gem from shuttering during a state fiscal crisis. For close to a decade now, the theatre company has presented its ‘Broadway Under the Stars’ concerts inside the state park, just a few miles north of Sonoma’s well-known town plaza.



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“Similar to the ‘Broadway Under the Stars’ concerts, this show allows the entire cast to shine, and it has the same excitement, heart, and love of life woven throughout,” Cooney explained.


Donna McKechnie, who won the 1976 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work creating the role of Cassie, will be a part of Sonoma’s Speaker Series. The award-winning performer is expected to discuss her successful career as a dancer and actress, the early history and development of ‘A Chorus Line’, and her work with original director and choreographer, Michael Bennett.


Donna McKechnie in ‘A Chorus Line’. Photo credit: theDRGimage.


In early April, Transcendence Theatre Company offered community members an opportunity to learn the famed choreography, taught by Cooney, from “One”— the finale number from ’A Chorus Line’. 


“[For the production] we’re keeping a few of the best known moments, but we’re also reimagining the rest of the movement so that it’s specifically crafted for our incredible artists and tailored for the unique Jack London State Park venue,” Cooney said. “I feel very lucky to be a part of this!”


Broadway’s Kristin Piro as Cassie in ‘A Chorus Line’. Photo credit: DRG/TTC.


The cast for ‘A Chorus Line’ includes Kristin Piro (An American in Paris, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) playing the role of Cassie Ferguson; Matthew Rossoff (Jesus Christ Superstar) as Zach; Natalie Gallo (Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia!) as Diana Morales; and Alicia L. Albright (Frozen, Wicked) as Val Clark.



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The cast also includes Lauren Sprague as Sheila Bryant; Julia Freyer as Judy Turner; Kelly Sheehan as Kristine Urich; Erika Conaway as Maggie Winslow; Leslie Rochette as Bebe Benzenheimer; Sierra Lai Barnett as Connie Wong; Alex Hartman as Vicki; Alle-Faye Monka as Tricia; Kimberly Pine as Lois; Mike Kirsch as Larry; Tim Roller as Mike Costa; Royzell D. Walker as Richie Walters; Michael Starr as Don Kerr; Luis Figueroa as Paul San Marco; Jeremy Greenbaum as Mark Anthony; Tony Gonzalez as Greg Gardner; Dylan Smith as Bobby Mills; Garen McRoberts as Al DeLuca; Paul Theimann as Frank; Neil Starkenberg as Roy; DJ Petrosino as Tom; and Keenon Hooks as Butch.


‘A Chorus Line’ was conceived and originally directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett. ‘A Chorus Line’ features music by Marvin Hamlisch; lyrics by Edward Kleban; book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante; and additional choreography by Bob Avian. The show also won nine Tony Awards and received the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. When it closed in 1990, 'A Chorus Line’ achieved the milestone as the longest running Broadway show in history.


Performances for the Transcendence production begin June 14 to June 30, 2019 (Friday, June 14; Saturday, June 15; Friday, June 21; Saturday, June 22; Sunday, June 23; Friday, June 28; Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30) at Jack London State Historic Park. Performances begin at 7:30, but the pre-show picnic with food trucks, entertainment, and wine begins at 5:00 pm.


For more on Transcendence Theatre Company and the production of ‘A Chorus Line’ visit www.BestNightEver.org.


Transcendence Theatre Company’s outdoor performance venue in Jack London State Historic Park. Photo credit: TTC.


Michael Mahany serves as Dance Network’s New York City correspondent. He is also a professional actor, singer, dancer, writer, and host. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.

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