Theatre Mirror Reviews - "MAN OF LA MANCHA"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



”MAN OF LA MANCHA”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Ivoryton Playhouse's current show is one of the world's most popular musicals, "Man of La Mancha" which tells the adventures of a delusional Spanish knight who sallies forth on a quest to restore chivalry to the world, claim his lady love and dare to dream "The Impossible Dream." The show itself has Connecticut roots. It was at the Goodspeed Opera House, which took a TV adaptation of "Don Quixote" by Dale Wasserman and tuned it into "Man of La Mancha" the musical with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, back in 1965. Don Quixote imagines he is a knight, his faithful servant, his squire; together they will punish evil doers, restore justice and bring chivalry back to society. His morals and standards of living bring current day audiences a look back on how people conducted themselves in the past and Quixote's ideals would be a refreshing change from the current day world which seems to be headed to hell in a hand basket. Director David Edwards takes the audience into this dramatic world with his talented 15 member cast who weave a story of hope amidst tough and troubling times through dialogue and music. He instills these lessons in his cast members and they do an excellent job with a heartwarming show that brings hope for a better tomorrow and the belief that everyone's impossible dream will come true. The important message to strive for your ideals is learned by these prisoners by show's end by accepting Quixote's vision of "The Impossible Dream." This topnotch cast is rewarded with a standing ovation and many tears along the journey by show's end.

David directs this show with a keen eye into all the inner workings of these characters in this show within a show. The impressive dungeon set is by Daniel Nischan while the costumes are by Elizabeth Cipolinna. The most impressive costumes are Antonia's, Carrasco's, the Housekeeper and Padre's. The lighting by Marcus Abbott is another important aspect of this show because it helps you understand the transition from Cervantes' imagination and back to the real prison life. Musical director Paul Feyer picks some outstanding vocalists to sell the songs to the audience. He not only conducts his topnotch 7 piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards for it. The standout choral numbers include "Golden Helmet" and the show stopping finale which leaves the audience in tears but with hope for a brighter future to come. Paul musically directed "Chicago" earlier this season. Todd Underwood choreographs the show.

The linchpin in this show is the person that portrays the dual roles of Cervantes and Don Quixote who is really Alonso Quijana in the play within play scenes. David Pittsinger handles this huge undertaking excellently. He makes the transitions from the three much older characters than he is with ease. The most dramatic moments are when he explains the meaning of life and when he takes leave of the prison in the final scene. A terrifying moment occurs before his meaning of life scene when a prisoner is dragged out to be put to death. Not only is David a fantastic actor turning himself into this knight errant, he is a terrific singer with a tremendous baritone voice. His voice soars in "The Impossible Dream" where he teaches Aldonza and the audience how we should live our lives. This song stops the show with its power and intensity. It sends chills up your spine as David hits the final high note of the number, winning him a thunderous ovation at its conclusion. He starts off the show with the duet with Sancho, "I Am I, Don Quixote", delivers the poignancy with "Dulcinea" when he first spots his lady love and in the rousing "Golden Helmet", where he thinks a shaving basin is his helmet. Bravo on a job very well done. Equally important is the actress who portrays Aldonza in this show. Talia Thiesfield breathes life into the role of this strumpet who becomes a lady, Dulcinea in accordance with Quixote's view of her. Whoever plays this underwritten role must have the acting chops to pull it off and Talia does so with flying colors. She is not only an excellent actress but has a superb soprano voice which moves the audience to tears when she tries to bring Don Quixote back to his life of adventure with her "Dulcinea" and her recitation of the "Impossible Dream." Talia also displays Aldonza's spitfire side in "It's All the Same", her tender side in "What Does He Want of Me?" and her exasperation at his foolish idealism in "Aldoonza." She runs the gamut of emotions in this role and Talia's finale number with harmonic balance of the chorus will send chills up your spine and tears down your cheeks. Brava!

The comic side of the show is handled splendidly by Brian Michael Hoffman as Sancho. He has a strong tenor voice which he uses in the opening number with David, the hilarious "I Like Him" where he tells Aldonza why he follows his master and "A Little Gossip" where he tries to help Alonso remember he's Quixote. Brian not only sells his songs but also leaves you in stitches with his one liners due to his comic mannerisms, line delivery and facial expressions. The poignant last scene and the tenderness of the three leads garners the empathy of the whole audience. Jimmy Van Treuren is dynamic as the Innkeeper who keeps the other prisoners in line but seems to have trouble keeping Sancho and his master out of trouble at the inn. Jimmy is a talented actor whom I have reviewed twice as Georges in "La Cage" and as Ziegfeld in "Funny Girl" at NSMT this past June. He displays his bass/baritone voice in "Knight of the Woeful Countenance" where he finally dubs Quixote a knight. David Edwards does double duty as director and as Carrasco, the villain of the show. He is a man of science who snaps Quixote back to reality as the Knight of the Mirrors. Alonso's niece, Antonia is well played by Amy Buckley and the Housekeeper is well played by Melissa McLean who display their soprano voices in "I'm Only Thinking of Him." One of the best voices in this show is Matthew Krob as the Padre. His phenomenal tenor voice soars off the charts in "To Each His Dulcinea" which is breathtaking as well as in the tear jerking "De Profunis" at Alonso's death. Matthew brings the needed depth for this role. Brian Binon is a hoot as the Jamaican barber whose basin is stolen by Quixote who thinks its his golden helmet. I have many pleasant memories of this show having played the barber and the Moorish pimp in 1985 and 1990 at the Newport Playhouse. So for an outstanding version of this classic musical, be sure to catch "Man of La Mancha" at the Ivoryton Playhouse before Don Quixote and company ride out of town. Tell them Tony sent you.

MAN OF LA MANCHA (7 September to 2 October)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
1(860)767-7318 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org




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