Candlelight Pavilion Presents a Sterling MAN OF LA MANCHA
Man of La Mancha /book by Dale Wasserman/music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion/ directed by Chuck Ketter/choreographed by Daniel Solis/ music direction by Douglas Austin/Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre/through February 22
This has to be my hundreth viewing of this show. As many times as I see Man of La Mancha, I relish the music and high dramatic moments of this classic piece of theatre. Such is the case when the production is top notch, with the perfect actors and highly skilled direction. Candlelight Pavilion's current revival is fantastic with artistic director John LaLonde stepping into the role of Cervantes for the sixth time. In spite of the entire cast's excellent performances, he is the main reason to see this fine production.
The beauty of Man of La Mancha as a musical is that the story is never dated; it lives and breathes in the moment. When it premiered on Broadway in the 1960s it was a winner and now, almost 60 years later, it is just as engrossing. Madness is always fun to play with. What is madness? And...what is sanity? There's a fine line between Quijote's crazy behavior and the deceptive politician, say, who defines himself as a seeker of equality. When we see things as they really are, it is too painful, intolerable. When we see them as we want to see them, however, there's a thick venere of happiness that coats all that is dreary. Death is inevitable but life must have meaning. Dale Wasserman's brilliant book makes us feel the intensity of Cervantes in his quest to write the perfect hero in Quijote, a man who surely lives in and for each moment. Mitch Leigh's music and Joe Darion's lyrics are the perfect accompaniment. Who can keep a dry eye upon hearing the gorgeous strains of "The Impossible Dream" or "Dulcinea"? The creative team are incomparable.
Chuck Ketter directs this production with a fine eye to detail. As LaLonde lives and breathes Cervantes/Quijana/Quijote with his perfect diction and rich baritone voice, his intensity incites the other members of the ensemble to high quality performances.
Monika Pena as Aldonza/Dulcinea is small in stature but brings a lovely voice and honest sincerity to her portrayal. She is jaded, yet sensuous, and in the end brings wonderful vulnerability to Quixote's assessment of her.
Ramiro Garcia is loyal and fun as Sancho Panza, but I would have liked to see him add even more humor to his silly proverbs. Gary Reinschmidt is delightfully droll as the Governor/Innkeeper, and praise as well to other members of the ensemble: Jason W. Webb as the Padre, Max Herzfeld as the comedic Barber, Francesca Sola as Antonia, Mary Murphy-Nelson as the earthy Housekeeper, and Aaron Pyle smart and ultra villainous as Carrasco. Lisa Dyson is rather wasted as Maria, the Innkeeper's wife but adds comic touches, spoken or not, whenever possible. Bravo to the rest of the cast who move beautifully to Daniel Solis's sharp choreographic steps.
Ketter has directed tightly, keeping the action moving with a nice pace. His set design is dark, the perfect ambiance for this unsettling yet uplifting tale.
Act One at Candlelight is the dinner which remains first class. The Bollinger cut of tri-tip roast is always on my plate, and I especially love the crabcakes in that delectable red pepper sauce. The special $6 drinks this time around include The Quest and Dulcinea. I enjoyed The Quest with its sparkling red sangria taste.
As to the servers, they are efficient and friendly, never forgetting the slightest thing, and that includes the busboys who are helpful with not only filling those water glasses but wrapping up your leftovers and refrigerating them as well.
This is a wonderful show. Next up is the megahit Little Shop of Horrors playing February 29 to April 4. Make early reservations, as most shows sell out fast.
(photo credit: Adam Trent)