Transcendence Theater Company will finally return to its original stage at Jack London State Historic Park on August 6 with a new stage production and a new concert, “Road Trip”. The company’s music supervisor is Matt Smart, a resident of Sonoma. Smart has been fortunate to be with TTC since 2014 and has lived in the valley since 2016.
Smart spoke by phone from his home studio on a quiet Sunday morning. He talked about “Road Trip”, his time with Transcendence, and two other stories that only happen to the lucky – and very qualified – people.
Smart is very happy to “work on the series, it’s a real treat”. “Road Trip” will take place on the hill in Jack London State Park for four weeks, starting this weekend.
The new show is a frenzied musical tour of the United States, with a familiar and diverse soundtrack. It contains songs such as “Born in the USA”, “California Dreamin ‘”, “Viva Las Vegas”, “Route 66”, “Georgia” and “Empire State of Mind”.
For this first post-COVID show, the TTC group was reduced from 12 musicians to a more typical rock band of just five. And unlike previous shows where the band struggled in the background, “Road Trip” will show the musicians right in the middle of the stage. Smart said: “The group is part of the show… standing up, unlike anything fans have seen before, they will even be in disguise.”
Local guitar master Isaac Carter is TTC’s longest-serving musician. Smart said, “We love Isaac. He brings a multitude of different styles, he plays just about anything, guitar, mandolin,… you name it. He could find work anywhere, but he chooses to be here and work for us.
Smart promises a “good dose of Isaac” in this show, including (spoiler alert) a slightly different style of guitar playing for Carter. Smart said, “There’s even a bit of heavy metal in the show, just a bit – we don’t want to scare anyone.”
A story Smart told would spark feelings of envy in any pop / classical / rock music director. During an off-season break from the TTC, Smart was musical director of the San Francisco production of the Broadway mega-hit “Hamilton”.
“I joined Hamilton in November 2019, but it ended abruptly when the pandemic hit,” Smart said. “I had been invited to continue with them after the troop left San Francisco, but a global pandemic occurred that turned it all upside down.”
Smart explained that TTC was “gracious enough to give me an extended sabbatical.” He learned the ins and outs of the show (“Hamilton”) during stays in Puerto Rico and New York. He added: “And then our hometown of San Francisco… that was really an opportunity.”
It’s also a great opportunity to work with TTC in the majestic cave ruins of beautiful Jack London State Park. Smart said, “Sometimes I have to catch up. If I have a bleak moment on the show and look at the sky and the stars… above the audience… there really is no such thing.
Another “pinch me” moment happened to Smart two years ago. It involves the award-winning musical director of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas.
Smart told the story enthusiastically: “It was such an amazing event. I got a call from Michael Tilson Thomas’ secretary. “I don’t know how they got my name. They were looking for someone who could bridge the gap between the classical world, who knew it, and who could also go pop. “
Smart continued, “Bonnie Raitt was in San Francisco for a gala with the San Francisco Symphony. They needed someone who could transpose on location, work with her, and prepare a few songs. So somehow I got this (gig).
“I went to MTT in Pacific Heights. It’s a mansion. I go up the stairs to the third floor and I’m very nervous about it, ”he said. “He’s got this beautiful Steinway piano, and there’s Bonnie Raitt sitting there at the piano holding MTT’s dog in her lap… We got down to business, she sang Gershwin tunes and we had a lovely afternoon. . “
The universe offers magical moments for those who work hard, and Smart has been hit on several occasions so far. Tickets to see Smart and his musician friends perform are available at bestnightever.org