Man of La Mancha
Book by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed by Nick DeGruccio
Musical Direction by Michael Raabe
Choreography by Kim Ball
Starring Davis Gaines, Laura Hodos, and Matt Zambrano
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando, FL
Staring into the face of a monster storm, Orlando Shakes shakes its powerless baby fist at Irma and shouts “No! This show WILL go on!” That’s the power of a good and true knight like Don Quixote (Gaines). Bracketing this tale of valor and idealism is a dark jail house, smoky and looking more like a Piranesi print than anything I’ve ever seen here before. While awaiting trial for unspecified crimes against the Catholic Church (the real Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, doesn’t seem to have been a troublemaker) his fellow criminals demand he defend himself to them. He defends successfully through the magic of Musical Theater and the fellow prisoners are surprisingly off book. Gaines is at his best with his pointed beard and powdered hair; he’s a bold man with a dream, crazy as it seems to his family. We should all end up embarrassing them this way.
While Gaines was elegant and mannerly as a good knight errant should be, it was Laura Hodos that stole the show. Mostly dressed as a street urchin, she was the hard worker who had to deal with the uncouth muleskinners and found Quixote’s obsession mystifying. But she buys in briefly, fights the muleskinners even though they were undoubtedly some of the inn’s best customers. In a moment of kindness, she is pulled into a brutally symbolic rape beneath the stage. As musical theater drama goes, it’s the best there is. Other excellent performances come from Victor Souffrant as the priest and the very funny and always on-spot Matt Zambrano as faithful Sancho Panza.
This is a show that puts all the Margeson Theater’s tricks into play. There’s a rotating stage, a center stage hydraulic riser, weird sound effects, and a moody set that looks like it was lifted from Piranesi’s “Prison” etchings. The crowd was light due to an impending storm, but the show was executed with panache and energy. Even though this is one of the chestnuts of the modern musical theater, it’s well worth seeing this production for its tight interplay of theatrical elements.
For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org