To see an unbeatable show
Book by Dale Wasserman; Music by Mitch Leigh; Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed by Tom Wojtunik
Music Direction by Chris Tilley
The Gallery Players (www.galleryplayers.com)
Equity showcase (Apr 26-May 18; Thu, Fri @ , Sat @ & , Sun @ )
Review by Michael D. Jackson
Director Tom Wojtunik has worked to more fully realize the improvisational concept of the classic 1965 musical, Man of La Mancha, and the results are very effective. In the recent Broadway revival, the concept was glossed over once it was established and the cast of prisoners miraculously fully realized their roles in the poet Cervantes’ telling of the tale of Don Quixote. Wojtunik’s production follows through with the concept with prisoners being coached into their roles a bit more by Cervantes and Sancho and never forgetting that they are making it up as they go. Although, soon enough, each scene melts into a kind of real time reality and the play within the play comes forward as the dominating narrative.
Cervantes/Don Quixote is played with an appropriately nervous enthusiasm by Jan-Peter Pedross, though his singing is not always confident. This is a disappointment, for the character’s songs are often quite powerful and require a certain baritone bravado. His manservant Sancho is played ideally by Robert Anthony Jones in terms of traditional casting. He looks and sounds every bit the Sancho of the past Broadway incarnations and he is delightfully entertaining throughout. As the only really important female character in the musical, Jennifer McCabe’s Aldonza is earthy and fierce. She gives an intense performance and probably is the most fully realized character of the production. However, her songs, usually handled by a singer with classical training, feel strained and uncomfortable at times. There are better voices in the ensemble, with Justin Herfel, Mark Kirschenbaum (as the Padre) and Rob Langeder standing out. The ensemble as a whole works together beautifully and the final rendition of “The Impossible Dream” is a real thrill.
Ryan Kasprzak’s choreography and fight sequences are sharp, but also keep in time with the improvisational concept of the show. Especially effective is the staging of “Man of La Mancha” with the two prisoners taking on the roles of horses charging ahead in a rhythmic prancing that builds in excitement. Also terrific is the staging of a musicalized rape sequence. Martin Andrew’s set is one of the more effective seen at the Gallery Players. The prison holding room depicts both prison and stage and there are many nooks and shadows from which the actors can disappear and reappear. As is usual to this show, all the props and costume elements needed are pulled from Cevantes’ theatrical trunk and what might be found in the prison. David Withrow’s costume design follows through with this concept and the production has an authentic look. Tony Galaska’s light design is atmospheric and is able to direct focus with an unobtrusive ease. Chris Tilley’s small band is excellent and even ensemble actors double as musicians.
Overall the production is quite satisfying, even if all the singing isn’t up to the demands of the score. The Gallery Players can be proud of delivering another fine show in a long line of consistently good productions.
Copyright 2008 by Michael D. Jackson
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