note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Aside from its life as a star vehicle for the late, great Richard Kiley, MAN OF LA MANCHA never got much respect. The only revivals now are at small theater companies with a singer/actor versatile enough to carry the title role of Don Quixote. Lyric Stage had Christopher Chew and Turtle Lane Playhouse, luckily, has James Fitzpatrick.
It takes an extraordinary performer to transform himself in a trice from the poet, Cervantes, to the errant knight---and to have the audience clearly understand which is which. The TLP production has several strong performances: In addition to Fitzpatrick, Tracy Nygard emotes up a storm as the wench Don Quixote chooses as his inspiration and Shonna McEachern adds powerful vocals to director John MacKenzie’s production. MacKenzie and Michele Boll’s foreboding dungeon set is painstakingly rendered, moldy brick by brick, and kept in the dark except when Don Quixote lights up the proceedings.
Steve Black’s pit musicians provide a solid orchestral presence but the chorus work onstage is, alas, uneven. Joe Berry makes Sancho Panza a chirpy standup comic, a sort of Castilian “Robin” to Fitzpatrick’s deluded “Batman.” Holy Inquisition! What I wouldn’t have given for a nice tap number to offset the gloom. (As you can guess, a musical with an explicit rape scene and no big production numbers is not my cup of tea.)