Monday, September 30, 2019

SDMT “Man Of La Mancha” Reaps Benefit of Townsend’s Quixote.

Winner of five Toy Awards including Best Musical, “Man Of La Mancha” ran for 2,328 performances on Broadway and has played in countries as far away as Hungary. It has been translated into no less than eleven languages and nine different dialects of Spanish.

It has been revived several times on Broadway and if you don’t know all the words to the quintessential “Impossible Dream” you could ‘name that tune’ after about the second note.

Now, once again you have the opportunity to see it on the stage of the Horton Grand Theatre in downtown San Diego through Oct. 27th.
Robert J. Townsend 
The story of Don Quixote de la Mancha (played to perfection by seasoned actor Robert J. Townsend) is a play within a play. It is set during the Spanish Inquisition. Spanish writer Manuel de Cervantes is arrested by the inquisition after an attempt to collect taxes on the church resulted in foreclosure.  He is thrown into the dungeon for high crimes. As soon as he arrives in the dungeon, the other prisoners want to try him and burn his books, which he holds dear.

He pleads with them to give him a fair trial and not burn his books until he finishes telling them the story of his famous character, Don Quixote de La Mancha, knight errant. Arrested with him is his long time sidekick Sancho Panza (Jeffrey Landman) who adds a good bit comic relief (“I Really Like Him”).  

Heidi Meyer as Aldonza
Using props from an old trunk that belonged to him and also tossed into the dungeon after he made his entrance, he slowly and meticulously and with the help of Sancho, transforms himself into a somewhat older disheveled and wild eyed knight who is on an adventurous quest to follow his dream as he weaves an unbelievable story of chivalry and naiveté to a ruff and tumble group of prisoners.

Also in the dungeon, is Aldonza (a fiery and impassioned Heidi Meyer) the rag tag stable girl that he renames Dulcinea (“To Each His Dulcinea"). It is one the more difficult roles to fill both in look and in tone. It is she who captures the eye of Don Quixote who sees her purity as opposed to the slugs in prison who look upon her as the dungeon whore.

This is one of the more physical productions under Scott Thompsons direction and choreography (Hanz Enyeart is dance captain) seen in some time. Meyer takes the brunt of it as the scavenger’s in the barn rape her over and over again (warning: X rating). Townsend also puts in a very physical as well as beautifully realized with strong vocals (“Impossible Dream”) as both Quixote/Cervantes.

Bethany Slomka, Joseph Grienberger, Francesca Sola
Those supporting include Bill Bland as Innkeeper/Governor with strong vocals. Joseph Grienberger (“It’ All The Same”) as the Padre. Bethany Slmoka as Housekeeper. Brian Doig, Captain of the Inquisition. Francesca Sola is Antonia the self -centered niece. (“I/We’re only thinking of him”). The large cast includes no less than twenty and all are on track with the music under Musical Director Don Le Master’s baton.  

Janet Pitcher, who has been costuming for SDMT since 2013 is back at it again designing the period appropriate looking costumes. Michelle Miles designed the dim dungeon lighting to the blinding of Inquisition/Night of the Mirrors battle. Set rental is from Candelight Pavillion Dinner Theatre and Jon Fredette designed the sound.
Robert J. Townsend and Jeffrey Landman
What’s there not to like about a musical with a playlist that includes: “Man of La Mancha” (“I Don Quixote”), “I Really Like Him”, “Little Bird, Little Bird”, “Golden Helmet of Mombrino”, “To Each His Dulcinea”, “Night of the Woeful Countenance”, “A Little Gossip” and  “The Impossible Dream” just to name a few in the Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh (Music) and Joe Darion (Lyrics) Tony award winning “Man Of La Mancha”? After sixty plus years the music, lyrics and book still satisfies. 
Cast of "La Mancha"
If you’ve not see the show before this is a good time to see it.
If you are a dreamer like this reviewer, see it again. It will conjure up all the feelings you had for it the very first time. It’s never too late to dream the impossible dream.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Oct. 27th
Organization: San Diego Musical Theatre
Phone: 858-560-5740
Production Type: Musical
Where: 444 Fourth Ave, Downtown San Diego, CA 92101
Ticket Prices: Start at $30.00
Venue: Horton Grand Theatre
Photo: Daren Scott

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