7 women bring 2 hours of pleasure to Marin audience

Subtract a lot of the glitz that normally accompanies musical numbers from the Great White Way and substitute unadorned talent.

That’s what “The Ladies of Broadway” did as seven top-notch female singer/dancers boomed and purred melodies from winners such as “Beautiful,” “A Chorus Line,” “Kinky Boots,” “Sunday in the Park with George” and “42nd Street.”

With ease, grace and humor.

The show spotlighted twin celebrations — women in general (and theatrical pioneers Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Liza Minelli, Bernadette Peters and Audra McDonald in particular) and the performers’ personal back stories.

The revue, a production of the Sonoma-based Transcendence Theatre Company best known for “Broadway Under the Stars,” just ran at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael but will repeat at the Luther Burbank Center of the Arts in Santa Rosa next weekend.

Unless you’re under 25 and can’t handle anything but hip-hop, it’ll be worth the short trip.

I relished nearly all 27 numbers — even an old-hat tap piece. My wife, whose plumbing better matches that of the performers, enjoyed them even more.

So, seemingly, did most of the white-haired audience that disproportionately represented Marin’s Silver Tsunami.

Publicist Kim Taylor told me the company is hoping not only “to attract Marin people to Sonoma to see the show but to help the county’s economy,” which was ravaged by the recent runaway fires.

I certainly can think of much less pleasant ways to spend a couple of hours.

Although I was familiar with only a quarter of the songs (several of which could have remained in their forgotten musical trunks despite being good showcases for individual performers), rousing renditions of “On Broadway,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” made up for any perceived shortfall.

In “The Ladies of Broadway,” Kristin Piro (left) and Lindsay Nicole Chambers mimic the “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” dance number from “Chicago.” Photo by Monica May.

Bigger yet showstoppers were “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag,” a Bob Fosse-like dance number from “Chicago” featuring Kristin Piro and Lindsay Nicole Chambers; a comical full-cast exposition on what auditions are really like; “I’m a Woman,” with the cast collectively cheerleading; Laurie Wells voicing a poignant “Mamma Mia” medley; a funny “Broadway Vamp Medley” by Chambers; and Leslie McDonel belting out “Natural Woman” while the crowd clapped rhythmically.

Not incidentally, McDonel, one of the gifted seven who’ve appeared on Broadway or with touring companies of such hits as “Wicked,” Mamma Mia,” “Legally Blonde,” “Hairspray” and “American Idiot,” doubled as the assistant to director Eric Jackson.

Also doing double duty was Susan Draus, music director and conductor of the almost-all-male, 11-piece onstage band. She accompanied Wells on piano (and stayed there for more).

The company, which was started in 2011, has drawn more than 121,000 patrons and raised more than $350,000 for Jack London State Historic Park, which it calls home.

The matinee performance I attended did start off a bit oddly — with an uninvited, un-amplified guy ranting about something no one could discern because of the loud party-like, pre-show chatter in the audience. He was escorted off the stage by multiple security agents, replaced by the revue that was decidedly more entertaining.

“The Ladies of Broadway” will play at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 25. General tickets, $29 to $89; VIP tickets, $129 to $139. Information: 415-473-6800 or www.ladiesofbroadway.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com or voodee@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →