Man of La Mancha/book by Dale Wasserman/music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion/directed by Randy Brenner/GCT (Glendale Centre Theatre)/through November 22
As many times as I have seen Man of La Mancha, I relish the music and high dramatic moments of this classic piece of theatre. Being, naturally, that the production of it is top notch, with the right actors and skilled direction! GCT's current revival is top of the line. I remember seeing Richard Kiley, the original Cervantes/Alonso Quijana/Don Quijote in a Broadway revival in the 70s and was blown away by his ferocious commitment to the role. He spoke and sang to the last row of the balcony without even trying because of his brilliant focus on relaying the message of peace, justice, love and the simple joy of living in harmony with your fellow-man. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Well, GCT's production is quieter, more subdued, but every bit as serious, entertaining and nurturing.
Randy Brenner lovingly directs the production with an outstanding ensemble headed by sturdy Marc Ginsburg as Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote and outstanding Victoria Strong as Aldonza. Strong is a dandy actress. Her Aldonza is jaded, yet passionate, and in the end completely vulnerable to Quixote's assessment of her. Ginsburg sings beautifully and has clear and eloquent diction, which serves him well, especially as he transitions from Cervantes to the madness of Alonso Quijana and Quixote. Reggie De Leon is perfect as Sancho. Jovial, amusingly energetic, and spouting proverbs as quickly as saliva, Sancho tends to be overplayed comedically at times, but De Leon wisely keeps him balanced and makes his character's straight forward logic true to life. James Warnock is stalwart as the Governor/Innkeeper, and praise as well to other members of the ensemble: John Holder in wonderful tenor voice as Padre, Chris Gomez stellar as Carrasco, Todd Andrew Ball comically on target as the Barber and Lisa Dyson brazen as the Innkeeper's wife. Much praise to the entire ensemble which includes the muleteers et al executing Lee Martino's lovely choreography and under the skilled hand of Randy Brenner who provides clean, cyrstal staging as director. Special recognition for those actors playing the donkeys, who really manage to make these animals loving creatures.
Tim Dietlein has designed a fine set and costume design by Angela Wood is period exact. The staircase that brings the prisoners into the dungeon is short yet quite effective for this small space. Special added note to Lee Martino whose crisp, waltz-like dance moves in the confessional/prayer scene with Quijana's niece and housekeeper really add moments of subtle magic.
Richard Kiley (the original), Raul Julia, Robert Goulet, George Ball and Davis Gaines all have given astounding performances in the title role, but Marc Ginsburg's portrayal is quite wonderful, and ranks right up there with the best of them, as is Victoria Strong's Aldonza...no, Dulcinea. Let's look for, grab and relish the sweetness of life! Bravo, GCT, for a job well done!
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