Cheers to Spiro Veloudos, whose marvelous direction has produced a masterpiece of theatre which I greatly appreciated. Best Performer Kudos to Aldonza (Deborah Holstine Betko) and Don Quixote (Bill Humphreys). I usually don't give best performer awards to both leads, but in this case I feel it is well deserved.
Deborah Holstine Betko is just incredible as Aldonza, demonstrating just the right amount of biting sarcasm, hatred and anger and yet tolerance towards the muleteers and at her position in life, yet the growing tenderness towards Quixote as he insists she is good and sweetness itself, "Dulcinea" and she continually and furiously denies it. Everyone of Deborah's songs took my breath away, from the sharpness in "It's All the Same" - which was extremely well choreographed with the muleteers freezing into position while she sang, danced and sneered around them, to her sincere confusion in "What Does He Want of Me?", to her final sweetness in "Dulcinea" and "The Impossible Dream" as she desperately tries to return Cervantes to the dream of Don Quixote so she can remain Dulcinea. The song I was most impressed by is her performance of "Aldonza" in which she enters after having clearly been beaten and raped by the muleteers, and very emotionally tells Don Quixote in pure agony of her past and that she can stand the put-downs and attacks of the muleteers but not his tenderness. If she is as good as he says, how can she stand the outrages done to her? Her cognitive dissonance is tangible at this point. By the end of the show she has indeed transformed from Aldonza, the kitchen slut, to the sweet lady, Dulcinea.
Bill Humphreys as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote plays the part to the hilt, demonstrating his madness and his vision so spectacularly that audience members behind me commented on the authenticity of his look of insanity as he stared off in the distance - most certainly in another world during his song of "Golden Helmet of Mambrino". I also enjoyed his songs - "Man of La Mancha" and "The Impossible Dream" which were certainly on key and in character, but I wish he had presented them with a tad more power, more like that of Sancho. He interacted very well with Aldonza, though. His acting of the part overall was extremely well done, including a very credible death scene of Don Quixote.
The Padre(Tad Allyn Doyle) was the consummate Padre. An accomplished singer and performer, this is his tenth appearance as the Padre, so it says in the bios in the program. He must really like the part, and he certainly has it down pat.
Sancho (Al Chase) is a very powerful singer, though not technically as good a singer as Don Quixote, yet he has a certain charisma that appealed particularly to my fellow thespian who attended the show with me. I was satisfied, but not blown away by his certainly adequate and enjoyable performance. I do think he played very well opposite Aldonza and I appreciated the humor of "The Missive" and also the very humorous yet sincere "I Like Him".
Dr. Carrasco (Tony Montana) fit the part well - doing a very believable pessimist and evil man. Even the most insidious turn of all, when he portrays the Enchanter and with a marvelous show of smoke and mirrors showing Don Quixote he is just a madman, is done with the purpose of "Only Thinking of Him". This "Knight of the Mirrors" scene was very well done. The helmet of the "Enchanter" created a tinny metallic far away sci fi sound. The mirrors were held at just the right angle to catch the smoke rays in the light and focus and flash it onto the spinning Cervantes whose grief stricken face could occasionally be glimpsed as the mirror-bearers closed closer and closer on him until he collapsed into the despair of reality.
The Abduction scene as it is known in which Aldonza is pretty much gang raped by the muleteers was shockingly intense for such an otherwise lighthearted uplifting show. The muleteers and the choreographer and director did a wonderful job here in showing clear intent of roughness/evil/courseness and abuse without much explicit violence other than pushing her around a bit and ripping off the top layer of her dress. The previously lighthearted playful we're gonna get ya "Little Bird Little Bird" transforms into a serious malevolent refrain as they indeed do "get her" reminding her too painfully of her history and background. This has probably happened to her innumerous times before, but this time she is angry and terrorized, having been shown respect and tenderness by Don Quixote, and this time she fights back, though unsuccessfully.
One of my favorite elements of this show was the performance of the horse (Ralph Allan Hamilton) and the mule (?). They do extremely well at the characterization of these, including prancing and nuzzling each other and the interaction with Aldonza when she attempts to feed them. The full head masks were very nicely done, made from various colored bits of what looked like leather with hay for the horse's mane.
Some of the props (property manager David Klucik) were really neat - the twisted sword of Don Quixote, the golden helmet of Mambrino, the trunk, the mirrors. Choreography (by Ralph Hamilton) was notably good in the pieces "Knight of the Mirrors", "The Combat" and "Little Bird Little Bird".
Oh yes, and one other section of this play that stood out as notable - when the members of the Inquisition entered... very slowly down the steep staircase with ominous music in long flowing red robes with full head hoods as the whole cast cowered in abject terror. I must say that the audience was nearly cowering in similar terror, but more due to the fear that one of the performers would trip in their robes with little to no vision and fall down the stairs, which they fortunately did not.
This was the first time I have seen "Man of La Mancha", yet all the tunes are so memorable that I found I knew several already and that several others stuck in my head the rest of the night. I thoroughly enjoyed this production and I highly recommend it.