Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Man of LaMancha"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


book by Dale Wasserman
lyrics by Joe Darion
music by Mitch Leigh

directed by Spiro Veloudos
musical direction by Jonathan Goldberg
choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Cervantes/Don Quixote … Christopher Chew
Manservant/Sancho Panza … Robert Saoud
Aldonza/Dulcinea … Caroline deLima
The Governor/Pedro … Timothy John Smith
The Innkeeper … J. T. Turner
The Padre … Kenneth Harmon
The Duke/Dr. Carrasco … Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Antonia … Mala Bhattacharya
The Housekeeper/The Innkeeper’s Wife … Ellen Peterson
The Barber/Muleteer/Ensemble … John Davin
Fermina/Moorish Dancer … Michele A. DeLuca
Muleteer/Captain of the Guard/Ensemble … Andy McLeavey
Muleteer/Ensemble … David Costa
Muleteer/Ensemble … Curt Denham
Muleteer/Ensemble … Gerard Slattery

Conductor/Keyboard … Jonathan Goldberg
Reeds … Louis Toth
Trumpet … Paul Perfetti
Trombone … Will Lambordelli
Guitar … William Buonocore
Percussion … Desiree Glazier

The Lyric Stage's production of MAN OF LaMANCHA demonstrates that Boston theatre, at heart, is a community theatre --- "community" in the sense that it lacks the unceasing flood of artists that replenishes the New York scene; thus, Boston producers and directors often make do with settled, local talent.

Christopher Chew, Boston’s musical leading man, is Cervantes/Don Quixote. Mr. Chew is strapping enough, handsome enough, and has an acceptable character-baritone ("The Impossible Dream" is carefully declaimed) --- he is an obedient actor, not a dashing or passionate one, and is at his best when italicizing a role, the way a child will mimic an adult. His Cervantes may ring hollow but once Mr. Chew applies Quixote's clown-white to his eyebrows, cheeks and nose, he agreeably barnstorms right down to the the Don's deathbed where he reaps some tears for his pains. I was pleased to see my old hunch, confirmed: that Mr. Chew is one of those actors who is freed, not hampered, by disguise --- again I declare that OLIVER!'s Fagin, with beard and putty nose, would prove a nice stopgap to Mr. Inge's Doc in COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA, where Mr. Chew would start off rabbitty and slide into threatening alcoholism (Kerry Dowling would be Lola, of course).

The Lyric production lacks atmosphere, sweat, smells, and all the more surprising since Spiro Veloudos brought out the rich rankness in URINETOWN, two seasons ago; if Ilyse Robbins could make that golden cast jump about like pros, surely she could have worked some wonders, here, even without trained dancers or acrobats: the combat scene goes for nothing; the rape scene, limply (pun, intended). Robert Saoud plays Sancho Panza as a eunuch bubbling with giggles; Caroline deLima slums as Aldonza, bent forward beneath the weight of her stridency, though she has an eloquent silence when she first encounters Quixote (she also suffers a risible moment when her skirt is yanked off in the rape scene, revealing immaculate thigh-length drawers, hemmed with ribbons). Timothy John Smith swaggers, once again, as the Governor/Head Muleteer (the Governor originally doubled with the Innkeeper); John Davin is a welcome twinkle as the Barber, and Mala Bhattacharya and Ellen Peterson are scene-stealing accents as Antonia and the Housekeeper.

I have mentioned in the past the importance of an actor being told when NOT to move while speaking and the Lyric production briefly offers a sublime example: in Act Two, a prisoner has been claimed by the Inquisition, leaving the others to cower on the sidelines. Maurice Emmanuel Parent, who plays the cynical Duke, sits extreme stage left on the chained bench; Mr. Chew, grouped with others, sits extreme stage right. Mr. Parent rails at Mr. Chew, quietly and bitterly, and as long as he remains on that bench, his Duke grows in power and interest --- the current is broken when Mr. Parent rises and stalks downstage, followed by Mr. Chew in rebuttal; if only they could have played out that scene, seated, even at the expense of audience sightlines! The same charge is leveled at Ms. deLima; granted, she must wander from muleteer to muleteer to be (chastely) groped but during her solo "Aldonza" she is all over the place rather than rooted in shaking, beaten rage. If Ms. deLima is being groomed for local stardom, her directors must straighten her posture, soften her edge and encourage her to perform without a net.

"Man of LaMancha" (7 September-13 October)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 585-5678

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide