Book by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed & Choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller
Conducted by Nyela Basney
Produced by Light Opera Works
“To dream the impossible dream. . .to reach the unreachable stars. . .to fight for what’s right without question or pause. That is my quest” -Don Quixote
Heartfelt production of the beloved Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha, is treated with reverence at Light Opera Works
I have seen several fine productions of Man of La Mancha including the CandleLight Dinner Playhouse production in the 1970’s with Lee Pelty as Don Quixote and the fine Theatre at the Center production staring Jim Harms in 2009. Man of La Mancha ran 2,328 performances on Broadway starting in 1965 won 5 Tony’s including best musical and is now considered a classic. Several remounts have proved the staying power of this material. Director and choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller has revived La Mancha with a fabulous set (design by Adam L. Verness) and a group of strong voices in a spirited and empathetic production.
The play is set during the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th Century and tells the story of Cervantes, the first modern novelist, as he is imprisoned by the Inquisition for trying to levy taxes on a church. Forced to ‘plead’ his case with his cellmates, Man of La Mancha turns into a play-within-a-play where he tells on Quixote’s story as his defense. The result is a journey from the realm of reality into fantasy. Is he mad or just the purest idealist? We follow Quixote’s noble quest as the knight sets out to right all wrongs and win the heart of a good woman as he duels windmills among other odysseys. This classic comic-tragedy musical is a moving illustration of themes of honor, nobility of spirit, chivalry, grace, courage and idealism. Quixote inspiring humanity over powers us.
The dignified older gentleman, Miguel de Cervantes, played with genuine lovableness by Jim Harms gradually yet honestly wins the souls of his cellmates as he vividly weaves the story of Don Quixote. From Harm’s powerful opening number “I, Don Quixote” we know we’re on a dream-like journey. When Jim Harms belts the memorable anthem “The Quest (The Impossible Dream),” the show reaches a memorable moment of truth. Tears could be seen throughout Cahn Auditorium.
Cary Lovett, as the Manservant Sancho Panza, blends humor, loyalty and companionship in a terrific turn. Lovett’s eyes sparkle in his truthful rendition of “I Really Like Him.” Colette Todd had the right blend of streetwise worldliness and effective vocal chops as Aldonza. She nailed “What Does He Want from Me?” and “Aldonza” with deeply felt emotion.
This production features a strong cast of supporting plays many of which excelled as singers including Bill Chamblerlain who landed “To Each His Dulcinea, ” and “The Psalm.” Man of La Mancha is a romantic journey filled with noble acts set to several stirring anthems with a load of sentimentality and heart. It also contains raw human cruelty. But the ultimate message of hope and kindness prevails. Who couldn’t cheer for underdog as he fights against all odds? Personal integrity is nicely presented in Jim Harms’ outstanding performance. He belts “The Impossible Dream” with an emotional impact that sent chills down my spine. The polish and stage craft of Rudy Hogenmiller’s production and the wonderful sound from the full orchestra deftly conducted by Nyela Basney gave grandeur to Man of La Mancha. The respect for the art of the material was quite evident. This is production deserves a large audience. Don’t miss it.
At Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, IL, call 847-920-5360, www.musictheaterworks.com, tickets $32- $92, Sunday, August 12 at 2 pm, Wednesday, August 15 at 8pm, Friday, August 17 at 8 pm, Saturday, August 19 at 8 pm, Sunday, August 19 at 2 pm, Wednesday, August 22 at 2 pm, Saturday, August 25 at 8pm, Sunday, August 26 at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.