Man of La Mancha

Man of La Mancha

Man of La Mancha
By Dale Wasserman, Joe Darrion, Mitch Leigh
Directed by Stephen Halpin and Kari Negron
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Starring Travis Eaton, Jonny Corzo, Jaclyn Leal
Baggy Pants Theatre at JCC of Greater Orlando, Maitland, FL

There is nothing like the folly of an old man, and Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” is the best example out there. In this musical adaptation (there’s a half dozen operas and a stack of film versions as well) we find Miguel Cervantes (Eaton) and his side kick (Corzo) tossed in a dungeon and waiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition. But first there’s a trial by other prisoners – they don’t have much legal standing but without it there wouldn’t be much of a show. Like bullies in high school, the “judge” finds Cervantes’ manuscript and threatens to burn it since he can’t read. Cervantes fights back, staging an impromptu show to explain the virtues of the written word and the joy of live theatre. Naturally, he plays Quixote, his sidekick plays Sancho and a fiery Ms. Leal is his dream girl Dulcinea and pious Victor Souffrant as the Padre. Quixote starts by attacking the windmill, then chastely courts Dulcinea and hijacks the Barber’s (Justin Jones) gold colored bowl for his “Golden Helmet of Mambrino.” Of course the windmill is off stage, Dulcinea is a girl of negotiable virtue, and the Barber needs his bowl back, but we are now deep inside Quixote’s fantasy of noble Knights and marginal magic. Yeah, he’s delusional, but the illusion is much more fun than his reality.

But you came to hear someone belt ‘The Impossible Dream,” didn’t you? That’s OK, the song appears three times and Mr. Eaton fills the room. He’s pretty good at everything, including his “Dulcinea” which gets a reprise by Ms Leal. The Muleteers looks cute in their rubber mule heads and when they take them off the sing “Little Bird” twice and you wonder about all this reprising – while you get to hear the hits twice, it feels like the musical team of Darrion and Leigh are just doubling down on their big numbers. Corzo’s Sancho seemed a bit too wide eyed for me; his singing was fine but he needs not just insane loyalty, but a bit of insanity himself. Padre Souffrant has a great nice church voice; “Psalm” could have opened for the Pope on his current world tour. Tonight the band was on stage and in costume with musical director Don Hopkins and his Grand Piano poking onstage from the general direction of the invisible windmill. The set (Lily Helm) was minimal and largely served to give the resting actors a place to hang out until their next scene. All the real action took place on a few rehearsal cubes – a minimal set and some good music can carry you a long way.

For more information on Baggy Pants Theatre, please visit http://www.baggypantstheater.com

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