BWW Reviews: MAN OF LA MANCHA at Forum Theatre Makes the Dream Possible
The cult classic Man of La Mancha, by Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, is running at Forum Theatre until May 4th. Paul E. Jackson's passionate, magical production proves what it takes to be timeless.
Man of La Mancha is suggested by the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. Historical and challenging, it has received several Broadway revivals as well as a permanent place in the regional theatre circuit. The original Broadway production received five Tony awards, including Best Musical.
The casting of Wichita's own Karla Burns (everyone's favorite Olivier winner) as the manservant Sancho is a bold and unconventional choice to say the least. Regardless of the role, Burns star will shine. She has enviable comic timing, bringing strong character choices to life.
Ray Wills, or Broad-Ray as he is affectionately dubbed, is a majestic though ill-fated Don Quixote. His Act 1 finale "Impossible Dream" was splendid. The first moment I forgot I was watching live theatre, but rather was wrapped up in the magic of the moment. He fills out the title role as though it was written for him. How lovely to watch two Wichita theatre legends work together.
There was a surprise hiding in the ensemble. Larry Hartley, playing the Innkeeper, was a delight. His presence elevated the oft overlooked "Knight of the Woeful Countenance" to a memorable and jolly romp. He has "it." I look forward to seeing more of his natural magnetic presence.
There is something powerful in simplicity, and director Paul E. Jackson delivered honest and touching moments. The choreography, by Angela Clark, on the whole was effective, but there were bits when the actors didn't feel comfortable with it. Costumes by Kathryn Page Hauptman and Valerie Horn lent themselves beautifully to the story telling- particularly complimenting the choreography of the Gypsy scene. Similarly, fight choreography, by Danette Baker, was exciting and powerful, but was executed slightly less heroically.
Early in the performance there was a smattering of technical difficulties. An actor backstage could be heard saying "something's wrong" directly preceding a series of flashing lights. The audience was willing to believe the flashes were lightning and had been intended to persist through the scene, but the actors were distracted. Regardless, the audience was enthralled with an overwhelming positive response, culminating in a standing ovation.
The Forum Theatre will be announcing their new season within the week, so stay tuned. If their fourth season is anything like their third, audiences can expect a variety of theatrical experiences to enjoy. Check out www.forumwichita.com for more info.