Produced by: Los Altos Stage Company
Featuring: Joe Antonicelli, Christina Bolognini, Stephanie Crowley, Yuliya Eydelnant, Josiah Frampton, Peter Juarez, Dave Leon, Scott MacDiarmid, Leslie Newport, Deborah Rosengaus, Andy Rotchadl, Krista Joy Serpa, Andy Serrano, Rafael Toribio and Daniel P. Wilson
Directed by: Virginia Drake
Choreographed by: Elizabeth Cox
Flamenco choreography by: Yuliya Eydelnant>
Music direction by: Guz Kambeitz
Running time: 140 minutes, one intermission
When: November 19 through December 19, 2015
Where: Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos, California
Tickets: $18-$36. Visit www.losaltosstage.org or call 650-941-0551
triumphs at Los Altos Stage
Los Altos Stage Company tilts at windmills and carries the day with its charming production of "Man of La Mancha."
It's not perfect, but among other things, this fine production shows us that maybe it is better to stage this show in a small space, rather than the huge auditoriums in which it is usually seen.
The show features a fabulous set, by Paulino Deleal, that helps the entire audience feel like they are in that dark prison in Seville. It doesn't bother with that boring huge staircase that some of the bigger productions used to bore us with. Absolutely the best set I've ever seen in the old Bus Barn Theatre.
Instead, Cervantes and his manservant Sancho enter through heavy gates controlled by Inquisition soldiers, then descend a short staircase to join the populace of thieves and murderers. There is a little fire pit at stage right, a well at stage left, different levels populated by the wretched inmates and a band back in a corner, stage left. It gives a fabulous sense of place, helped along by Carolyn A. Foot's excellent light design.
Sharon Peng's costumes are fabulous, from Cervantes' middle-class threads to the grease-stained skirts of the strumpet Aldonza. Properties designer Miranda Whipple keeps the fantasy fun, from Cervantes make-up box to the tree branch tied to Don Quixote's broken lance.
The story is of Cervantes thrown into jail, awaiting trial by the Inquisition for having put a tax lien on a church. The thieves and murderers in prison want to convict him themselves and take all his belongings, but he talks them into letting him mount a defense.
As his defense, he tells the story of Don Quixote, as told in his book. Herein are the familiar tales of a nutty old would-be knight mistaking a windmill for a dragon, and a kitchen strumpet for the fair lady, Dulcinea.
With a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh, it is one of the most popular and beloved musicals of all time, for good reason. It is emotionally enthralling and uplifting, amusing, touching and heart-touching.
Wilson is a great Cervantes/Don Quixote, tall, handsome and communicating both the clever Cervantes and the nutty old Don Quixote. But on opening night, anyway, he was one of those singers who takes great care to pronounce every syllable clearly, and hit every note as written in the score.
But he did not project vocally except on one note, one word, "star" nor did he sing with soul. Too much control, not enough emotion. He held back too much when singing the key anthems of "Man of La Mancha," "Golden Helmet of Mambrino" and "The Impossible Dream."
Happily, there was someone on stage with him who did make use of a strong voice to sing with soul, and that was Dave Leon, as Sancho Panza. When the two sang together, Leon was the strongest vocal presence, although in the lesser role. And, if applause is any measure, Leon was the audience favorite, and for good reason. He is a fine actor, and delivered Sancho's songs "I Really Like Him" and "A Little Gossip," for instance, with charm and humor.
Deborah Rosengaus sometimes seemed to be pushing her voice a little, but she was wonderful to watch as Aldonza/Dulcinea. She delivered most of her tunes with lots of fine acting and emotion. "It's All the Same" was hilarious and sad at the same time. Her reprise of "Dulcinea" was powerful and heart-rending, although it feels like it ended too soon.
Andy Serrano was wonderful as Padre, both as a singer and as an actor. His trio with Christina Bolognini as Antonia and Stephanie Crowley in "I'm Only Thinking of Him" was so much fun. It's one of the best songs in a show that is filled with best songs, and definitely one of the funniest.
Bolognini and Crowley also played horses for a while, which was pretty silly, and pretty fun.
Overall, an excellent cast, with a fine crew of muleteers, strumpets, a not-so-noble nobleman and others.
And ... hats off to the band. Scott MacDiarmid and Tony Frye on guitars, Tyler Harlow on bass, Emily Chiet on violin, cast member Yuliya Eydelnant on hand claps (and starring in a fine bit of flamenco dancing) and Leon on euphonium.
Ken Kilen's sound design kept everything clear.
Go see this show. But you might want to avoid the Sunday matinees if soccer is being played on the field next door. The city of Los Altos has done nothing to stop the soccer players from doing such things as kicking the ball into the metal doors of the Bus Barn Theatre. It's kind of shameful, really.
Email John Orr at email@example.com