Los Angeles Theater Review: MAN OF LA MANCHA (A Noise Within in Pasadena)

by Dale Reynolds on April 10, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles

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A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

As a part of A Noise Within’s 25th Season, co-Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott helms an extraordinary production of this 1964 hit musical, Man of La Mancha, adapted by Dale Wasserman from his 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was adapted from Miguel de Cervantes’ 1605 Don Quixote. The timeless score is by Joe Darion (lyrics) and Mitch Leigh (music).

A story of faded nobility and the quest for idealism, honor, and truth, Wasserman’s play-within-a-play opens with Cervantes (Geoff Elliott) and his servant/friend, Sancho Panza (Kasey Mahaffey), thrown into a jail, awaiting trial from the Spanish Inquisition. They are then forced by the other criminals to act out Cervantes’ play about a nobleman who has lost his mind and thinks he is Don Quixote de la Mancha, defender of the weak and victor over the oppressor. All the songs come from the aging and mentally feeble man’s adventures.

Set in a nebulous mid-20th-Century third-world prison, Fred Kinney’s cold and dark-grey set is a proper backdrop for the action, under Ken Booth’s isolating lighting design. Angela Balough Calin’s 17th-Century costumes for the prisoners and the characters they play, most of them properly dreary, reflect the poverty of the denizens. (An amusing anecdote concerns the original costume designer of the New York production who turned down the job, stating, “I don’t do schmattas!”)  Well, Calin does – and quite well, too.

The cast are mostly newbies to A Noise Within’s company, as the vocal demands are so challenging. So it was fitting to see Elliott, who plays King Lear in this repertory season, in full bass-baritone, with his scraggly beard and longish hair, so stupendously accurate. He hit all the vocal needs as well as the character’s emotional ones. Backing him splendidly are powerful soprano and equally strong actress Cassandra Marie Murphy, and Mahaffey, amusing as Panza. Other standouts are: Andrew Joseph Perez’ confused Barber; Michael Uribes’ full-of-himself Dr. Carrasco; Cynthia Marty’s Maria and Housekeeper; Cassie Simone’s fearful Antonia/Fermina, and Gabriel Zenone’s kindly Innkeeper – all in sturdy voice.  The only other member of ANW’s permanent company, Jeremy Rabb, was more-than-serviceable as the Padre, although he was unable to manage the higher tenor notes he is required to sing, especially in “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” Casting director Amy Lieberman did yeoman’s work bringing in this ensemble.

Under the high-quality musical direction of Dr. Melissa Sky-Eagle is the superlative band: Adrienne Geffen on Flute/Clarinet/ Piccolo; Barbara Laronga on Trumpet; Robert Oriol on String Bass and Guitar; Angela Romero on Trumpet; Ken Rosser on Guitar; Maya Barrera on Oboe; and Michael Boerum on Drums and Percussion. The Spanish-flavored music is clearly the lodestone of this production and the players truly made it a memorable evening.

Rodriguez-Elliott has done a lovely job on staging this powerful and still-relevant musical – a reverberating production, one of their best in the past five years, worthy of our attention.

photos by Craig Schwartz

Man of La Mancha
A Noise Within
3352 Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena
ends on May 21, 2017 EXTENDED to June 4, 2017
for tickets, call 626.356.3100 or visit A Noise Within

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