Park Avenue Theatrical Group presented Ron Holgate in "Man of La Mancha" at the State Theatre in New Brunswick last weekend, wrapping up one of the final weeks of its eight month National Tour.
"Man of La Mancha", the mid-60s Off-Broadway and Broadway hit at the ANTA Theatre, tells the musicalized exploits of Don Quixote as related by his author, Miguel de Cervantes, imprisoned in the 16th Century during the Spanish Inquisition. The entire action of the piece takes place a prison in Seville and/or the febrile imagination of the author, actor, poet, Cervantes.
An aging gentleman, Don Quixana, in his senility, thinks he is a knight from the 13th Century and goes about acquiring a squire, Sancho de Panza, and a lady, and conquering evil and adversity wherever it appears. Don Quixote de La Mancha (as he deludedly calls himself) pitches battles with windmills and other imagined nefarious enchanters. He mistakes a simple inn for a castle and bids its innkeeper (whom he assumes is of royal blood) to knight him. He insists that a barber's shaving basin is none other than the golden helmet of Mambrino, and that the kitchen slut, Aldonza is the fair and virtuous Lady Dulcinea he seeks. In short, he is a dreamer who sees beauty and glory where there is only ugliness and ignominy.
Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra penned 40 unsuccessful plays before he wrote the novel "Don Quixote" when he was broke, aging and infirm. Volume I, published in 1605 brought him fame but little profit. Volume II, appearing ten years later ensured his immortality as one of the world's greatest authors. Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion have immortalized this most famous of books in some of the most memorable music of all time. The score of "La Mancha" is gloriously inspiring in its melodic sweep and grandeur. The Impossible Dream ("The Quest" as it is properly titled) is the most well known song, but who can forget Man of La Mancha, To Each his Dulcinea, Little Bird, Little Bird, and my personal favorite Golden Helmet of Mambrino?
This tour boasts a talented cast all of which possess powerful voices. Unfortunately, due to minor technical problems, the percussionist overpowered many of these glorious voices. Knowing the score by heart, I personally had no problem hearing the lyrics, but there were those in the audience who were viewing the show for the very first time and had trouble hearing. Apparently, the cast had traveled for nine and a half hours to get to the theatre and did not have time to do a full and comprehensive sound check. Every theatre's acoustics are different and needs must be met accordingly. Obviously this is one of the nightmares that a producer must face on the road, and perhaps this was an isolated incident; but nonetheless it marred what was a very strong production of this wonderful show.
Marilyn Caskey has a marvelous voice and presence as a smoldering Aldonza. Ron Holgate, tall and gaunt of figure, and possessing a commanding stage voice and bearing, was the perfect embodiment of Don Quixote. Christina Seymour (Antonia) and Joyce Presutti (The Housekeeper) sang like nightingales in their duet, I'm Only Thinking of Him. Richard Ruiz was a pleasing Sancho, Anthony Santelmo Jr. very moving as the Padre and clear-voiced Ed Romanoff struck just the right note as the pompous Dr. Carrasco.
The set design by Wrightworks, Inc. was solid and striking, the costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case served well to denote 16th Century Spain, and director Jeffrey B. Moss kept the evening moving at a lively pace.
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