Man of La Mancha

Book by Dale Wasermanlamanchapostcard

Music by Mitch Leigh

Lyrics by Joe Darion

Directed by David Heiman

Music Direction by Ethan Deppe

Produced by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre Co. in association with Michael James

At No Exit Café

Insanely moving production of Man of La Mancha graces the No Exit Café

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s Artistic Director Fred Anzevino encourages his directors to take risks as he has successfully done in mounting major musicals and revues in the tiny No Exit Café. Add the fact that Hal James, the father of the café’s owner Michael James, was one of the original producers in 1965 and director David Heimann had enormous challenges in mounting Man of La Mancha. Heimann’s decided to use the elements of the intimate No Exit Cafe to heighten the emotion and establish audience empathy with the characters by changing the location from a prison to a lunatic hospital. He realized that we feel for the insane while we have only distain for criminals. To underscore the setting, Heimann has many of the cast members on stage acting out the foibles of the insane before the show starts. This was quite effective at setting the tone of Heimann’s vision.

manoflamanchaubique1

Next, Heimann cast the fabulous Danielle Brothers as Don Quixote. Brothers has the intense acting chops necessary to play the eccentric ‘knight.’ She also has the lower register to effective land her powerful songs. Excellent decision. Heimann filled the show with outstanding character actors equally adept as actors and singers. This cast projected naturally (no mics) with every word and every lyric crystal-clear—how refreshing to the ear. Add the intense movement by the ensemble and Man of La Mancha easily and quickly wins our hearts. Once we care about the inmates, not just Quixote, as we are drawn in further into their world.

manoflamanchaubique2

Aldonza (the golden voiced Sarah Hayes) is slowly mellowed by the gallantry of the ‘mad’ knight. The Innkeeper (Michael Herschberg with a hand-puppet), the Governor (Kent L. Joseph), the Barber (Trisha hart Ditsworth), the Duke (Tom Moore) and Anselmo (the terrific agile Kyle Greer) are each made more human by their acting out as part of the play-within-a-play structure of Don Quixote’s defense. Puppet use here worked nicely. Another smart decision.

Anthony Apodaca’s Sancho is loyalty personified as he offers a hilarious turn with cute songs like “I Really Like Him’ and   “A Little Gossip” as Don Quixote’s sidekick/servant. Sarah Hayes’ rich “What Does He Want of Me” and her reprise of the hauntingly beautiful “Dulcinea” were emotionally stinging. The ensemble nailed their songs with a startling effectiveness as they moved from the funny “We’re Only Thinking of Him” to wild “The Combat” and “Moorish Dance.”

But surly Man of La Mancha resets on the power of Quixote to win our hearts. Danielle Brothers so truthfully lands the “Man of La Mancha”and the wonderful “Dulcinea” before her anthem to all quests and all dreamers—“The Impossible Dream.” Brothers moved many to tears. I believe David Heimann’s production succeeded and fulfilled his ‘dream.’ Kudos to him, to Theo Ubique and the cast for rendering a most heart warming production of a Broadway classic. This is wonderful Chicago storefront musical theatre. They prove that less is more if the director has the vision and follows his dream.

P. S. Be sure to read David Heimann’s Director’s Note in the program about his vision.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave, (off the Morse stop of the Redline). Chicago, Il, www.theoubique.org, call 800-595-4849, tickets $30 – $35 (dinner packages available), Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm (dinner one hour earlier), running time is w hours, 30 minutes with intermission.