BWW Review: A Noise Within Reaches the Unreachable With their LA MANCHA
MAN OF LA MANCHA/by Dale Wasserman/music by Mitch Leigh/lyrics by Joe Darion/directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott/A Noise Within/thru May 21, 2017
Perfection! A Noise Within produces a stunning, modernistic, most entertaining take on MAN OF LA MANCHA, the tale of Don Quixote and his man servant Sancho during the sixteenth century Spanish Inquisition. Co-Producing Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott most skillfully directs her very talented cast of thirteen staging them in non-stop action; as the most inventive angry windmills, as a spontaneous spoon-clapping band of prisoners executing smooth scene changes, and as ruffians in fluid, realistic fight scenes.
For those not familiar with the plot of the classic MAN OF LA MANCHA; Cervantes, a poet/actor/tax collector has been jailed for foreclosing on a monastery. Sharing his plight, his faithful manservant Sancho Panza joins him in the prison dungeon already brimming with unsavory types. In his attempts to delay beatings from the jaded prisoners, Cervantes offers to devise a play to distract and for all to interact. Cervantes' character Don Quixote has visions of righting all wrongs as he travels with his squire Sancho.
Co-Producing Artistic Director Geoff Elliott OWNS his roles of Cervantes/Quixote. I can totally agree with Sancho's song to Cervantes, "I Really Like Him." Elliott's Cervantes possesses quick wit and still-fast reflexes for a man in his later years. Elliott's Quixote seems less a crazy madman than a frantic romantic hopeful. Elliott makes it easy to buy into Quixote's Impossible Dream. Elliott's dulcet vocals obviously touches the armored heart of Aldonza when he sings his love ballad "Dulcinea" to her. Be warned! Bring your tissues with you as tears will probably start flowing when Elliott performs "The Impossible Dream." This is theatre at its zenith!
The forlorn waitress Aldonza receives a fiery, feisty, balls-out performance from Cassandra Marie Murphy. The prisoners all know not to mess with her Aldonza - unless she lets them. Murphy's gorgeous vocals grab centerstage with Aldonza's "It's All the Same" and "Aldonza."
Kasey Mahaffy totally charms as the devoted sidekick Sancho. A combination Aaron Paul and Justin Timberlake, Mahaffy's Sancho's hip, but not too hip. Mahaffy's Sancho's the heart and sensibility for his master.
The remaining play various integral roles as prisoners and in the play-within-the-play. Jordan Goodsell opens the first scene with his piercing vocals as Anselmo hanging up from a steel grid. Gabriel Zenone realistically morphs from powerful leader of the prisoners to obliging, accommodating innkeeper. Jeremy Rabb congenially sings as the comforting Padre "To Each His Dulcinea" and "The Psalm."
Others onstage in multiple roles contributing immensely to this ANW production include: Cynthia Marty, Michael Uribes, Andrew Joseph Perez, Tyler Miclean, Mario Arciniega, Cassie Simone and Marissa Ruiz.
With the very first note of their overture, musical director Dr. Melissa Sky-Eagle grabs the audience's attention with her seven-piece orchestra. Their combined musicality's so spot-on with Mitch Leigh's compositions. The orchestra's comprised of: Adrienne Geffen on clarinet/flute/piccolo, Maya Barrera on oboe, Angela Romero on trumpet 1, Barbara Laronga on trumpet 2/horn, Ken Rosser on guitar 1, Robert Oriol on guitar 2/upright bass, and Michael Boerum on drums and percussion.
The scenic design of Fred Kinney complemented by Ken Booth's lighting design smoothly and instantly transforms the thrust stage from an ominous dungeon to Quixote's destination castle/inn to open fields of windmills and back again.
The gasps were audible at the opening announcement that "The show will be one hour and forty minutes long without an intermission." But the hundred minutes flew by, culminating with an immediate standing ovation from the many tearful audience members. This critic was sobbing uncontrollably the last ten minutes of this production. (I cried even more than the many times I've seen A CHORUS LINE.)
There's something about dreaming an impossible dream that seems perfect for this day and age. Run! Don't walk to see this MAN OF LA MANCHA at ANW!