Photos David Bolling
It was a little like the culmination of a two-decade seduction.
Almost everyone in Sonoma knew that Roger Rhoten was called the “Magic Man” because he was adept at magic tricks that he would dole out in bits and pieces over the years – pulling a dove out of mid-air, levitating his wife, Diana, tearing a newspaper to shreds then reconstructing it with a shake of the hand – but no one had seen the whole range of his phantasmagorical legerdemain all wrapped up in one spectacular show.
At least, not until the epic last weekend of April when Dr. R.K. Rhoten’s Magical Medicine Show pulled into the Sebastiani Theatre for three (count them, THREE) star-studded performances with a cast of Sonoma Superstars that included the grown-up Rhoten apprentice Tobias Weinberger who ate fire, swallowed a sword and shot a maiden out of a cannon and into the audience (sort of ); the lovely, lithesome songstress and dancer Sarah Summers; the sensuous beauty Nathalie Tedrick who belly-danced with a sword on her head; singer, songwriter and Rhoten sidekick Bob Gossett (aka Slim); child crooner Isobel Hubbard who sang with the voice of a grownup; magician assistants Carrenne Purtell and Mari Purtell who facilitated the flow of magic; legendary local musicians Cat Austin (keyboard) and David Aguilar (guitar) leading a spot-on band and more supporting cast, musicians, dancers, artists, administrators, assistants, designers, wranglers, choreographers, technicians, costumers, hangers-on and roustabouts than you could shake a magic wand at.
By his own admission Dr. Rhoten had been threatening to launch such an extravaganza for nigh unto 20 years, but life, as they say, kept getting in the way.
Rhoten, who has been managing (and preserving) the Sebastiani Theatre for a quarter of a century, has just this year relinquished many of his daily duties to sound engineer and all-around enabler Tony Ginessi, finally freeing the time required to stage such a stupendous production.
And so it came to pass, amid thunderous applause, standing ovations, and the demand that Roger Rhoten must do it again before the passage of another 20 years.