Review of Man of La Mancha
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Book by Dale Wasserman
Direction & Music Direction by Les Pfutzenreuter

For tickets / schedule :
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
North Bay Stage Company

RUN: July 21 – August 6, 2017
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(July 23, 2017)

Man of La Mancha - North Bay Stage Company

Photo by John DeGaetano

Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the musical focuses on an imaginative journey clinging to the hope that chivalry and lofty ideals will triumph, despite being constantly assured that “the world’s a dung heap and we are maggots that crawl on it.” Set in a Seville prison, a fictionalized version of the author finds himself in trouble with the Spanish Inquisition, and is called upon by his fellow prisoners to answer for his crimes. Cervantes defends in the form of a play within a play, which launches the story of Don Quixote, the madman or knight errant, depending on your point of view. The strength of this play is in its songs by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh, which I find myself humming for weeks afterward. Classics like “The Impossible Dream” and “I’m Only Thinking of Him” are memorable moments, along with the less savory tunes “It’s All the Same” and “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Director Les Pfutzenreuter sets the scene as the doors open, with cast members on stage as if in a medieval prison, fighting over captured bugs, searching for an escape, and wearily lamenting their lot. Debi Stone gazes hauntingly toward the audience, filled with despair, wandering back and forth to an unseen fireplace. The cabaret seating gives the feeling of being in a Spanish café, along with a clever Don Quixote inspired menu. Scenic painter Ayla Decaire transforms the set into mobile blocks of stone, and the Luther Burbank Center’s appropriate brick wall is revealed between gently draped curtains.

Pedro Rodelas is an operatic Don Quixote / Cervantes, with noble bearing, a powerful voice and intense expressions that work well with his characters. The final scene as his eyes light up upon remembering that he is Don Quixote and not Alonso Quijano is beautifully moving. His partner in misadventures is Perry Aliado as Sancho Panza, who takes the down-to-earth servant and adds endearing enthusiasm to the role. Their encounters with windmills, gypsies, and muleteers leaves Don Quixote’s armor and weapons in various states of amusing disrepair.

Man of La Mancha - North Bay Stage Company

Photo by John DeGaetano

Paula Samonte’s fiery Aldonza is well acted, such as discussing a “missive” with Sancho that the knight has sent her, while she sloppily eats her soup and cross examines his motives for following the madman. Unfortunately, her voice is lost in the auditorium without a microphone to augment it, leaving the audience straining to hear her. Similar concerns appear with Susan Markcity’s Antonia; her lovely, sweet toned voice fails to carry, which renders the duet with Richard Rader as the Padre a trifle one sided.

Villainous Head Muleteer / Pedro dominates the stage with Ayrick Broin’s machismo and a dangerous whip at his side, ready to bend the world to his whims. Subtle bloody makeup after his dustup with the knight adds to the impression, and his treatment of Aldonza was tastefully directed by Pfutzenreuter while retaining the horror of her situation.

North Bay Stage Company’s Man of La Mancha captures the story in an enjoyable production with a capable cast. It is worth attending if the musical appeals to you or for an evening away from cares to join in the adventures of Don Quixote and to “follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.”