Man of La Mancha
At a time when intolerance of divergent opinion is reaching alarming levels, the classic story of the imprisonment of the great novelist Miguel de Cervantes and his compensatory escape through the charms of his alter-ego, Don Quixote, is particularly poignant.
Under the direction of Paul Dwyer, Country Dinner Playhouse's current production mines almost all the rich ore of this Broadway chestnut. After an excruciatingly slow drawbridge deposits the famous prisoner in the dungeon of the Inquisition, strong performances by the entire company win us over, while the rollicking humor and razor-sharp satire of the script grab us by the lapels and hold on until the final curtain.
In this musical adaptation of arguably the world's greatest novel, Cervantes, like his Shakespearean contemporary, uses a play-within-a play to make his point. Gary Lindemann is riveting in the lead role, alternately disarming his aggressive fellow inmates as narrator and director (Cervantes), then fully-inhabiting the pathos of the beloved knight errant (Quixote) and bringing alive his idealistic vision of the world. Lindemann's robust tenor caps off his performance, culminating in a passionate rendition of the "The Impossible Dream."
|(L to R) Gary Lindemann as|
and Jimmy Ferraro as
Jimmy Ferraro's Sancho Panza is an absolute delight. Drawing on comedic elements as far afield as Harvey Fierstein and Ethel Merman, he brings laughs at every turn. As in Cervantes' novel, it's integral to the believability of the musical that Sancho justify his loyalty to his impractical master, and Ferraro's "I Really Like Him" sells us in spades on that account.
The most complex dramatic arc of the story is handled with aplomb by Jean Arbeiter, who transforms the gritty, uncouth Aldonza into the radiant believer, Dulcinea. Arbeiter's soprano is particularly lovely in the reprise of "Dulcinea," when she coaxes the dying and temporarily amnesic Quixote to remember his quest.
|Jean Arbeiter as Aldonza/Dulcinea|
with (L to R) Steve Grojahn as Juan,
Travis Risner as Pedro,
Robert Hoppe as Anselmo,
Markus Warren as Tenorio,
and Rob Costigan as Barber
With the marvelously talented Mitch Samu (conductor/keyboards), Neil Haverstick (guitar), and Tag Worley (percussion) in the pit, the music occasionally rises to sublime heights, in elegant drum lines or Spanish guitar themes; but just as often it lacks the requisite punch. At some point we're still hoping that Playhouse management will revisit its supposition that the synthesizer is the wave of the future and measure up to the orchestration of other local dinner theatres with a reasonable complement of at least five to seven instruments: the actors and the audience deserve it and the scores demand it.
On the 450th anniversary of the Cervantes' novel, the second most widely published book in the world after the Christian bible, it's worth noting that there is more of a resemblance between the two works than one might suspect, as evidenced by Cervantes' response to the Duke's admonition that he must come to terms with life as it is, and he replies as prophets always have, "It is madness to see life as it is, not as it can be."
Country Dinner Playhouse's Man of La Mancha runs through May 14th. 303-799-1410 or 1-800-630-1026.