Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Man of La Mancha”

Highly Recommended**** To “Dream the Impossible Dream” is what the “Man of La Mancha” has always been about Now onstage at Cahn Auditorium on the campus of Northwester University, for a very limited run, you can have the opportunity to watch James Harms, once again, bring this sterling story to life. Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, “Man of La Mancha” tells the story of a poet/playwright, Cervantes ( Harms, who is one of Chicago’s treasures both on and off stage) and his servant Sancho Panza ( brilliantly handled by Cary Lovett) who are placed in a holding area awaiting their hearing during the Spanish Inquisition at the close of the 16th century. The others in the area are thieves and beggars, who seeing this “noble” person of means decides to try him themselves and take his possessions. As his defense, he tells his story of the dreams of Don Quixote with all of the cell mates becoming characters in the telling of the story of a dreamer seeking what is out of reach, but never giving up.

Light Opera Works continues to amaze their audiences with the talent they find and the productions they place on the stage. Directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller on a magnificent set designed by Adam L. Veness, it seems a shame that the audiences of Chicago are limited in the number of performances available.Just seeing the set as we await the overture is awesome. It is one large, dark dungeon-like room with little alcoves and man items that can be converted to other items a sthe play within a play begins. When Cervantes makes his first appearance it is down a drawbridge like staircase that is amazing. Over the years, Light Opera continues to grow in stature because of the solid work they do and the glorious productions they place on their stage, with full orchestras ( conducted by Nyela Basney). This is a show that entails deep lighting effects ( Andrew H. Meyeres) but unlike many shows, the moods and feelings rely on those operating the lights to keep the story moving, so special kudos to Ross Egan,Claire Sangster and Michael Wax. The costumes by Jesus Perez are astoundingly “Broadway” and whoever assembled all the props, wow! great job!

Over the years we have seen productions of “Man of La Mancha” on large stages and small ( the Court did a different adaptation as did TheoUbique in its little storefront in Rogers Park) and this is by far one of the slickest, smoothest productions we have enjoyed. What makes this so special is that the entire ensemble of actors is near perfection. This music, with its very Spanish flavor is powerful and it takes voices with great range and power to fill Cahn Auditorium with this powerful story, and they have it.Colette Todd, the love of Quixote’s life, Aldonza/Dulcinea is a powerful actress with a solid voice. Over the years, this character has been played by women with lower ranges, a sort of raspiness, but with Todd, I was able to understand every word. The others of solid note, Bill Chamberlain , a strong tenor voice, Alex Honzen ( the Innkeeper),Greg Zawada,,Peter Eli Johnson,Daniel Spagnuolo,Edward J. MacLennan, Jordan Yentz,Yvonne Strumecki and Patrick Rooney ( the on the stage guitarist) but in reality, ths is an ensemble show with a strong ensemble. Remember, each of the prisoners takes on a major role in the play-within-a-play that is 2 1/2 hours of great story-telling, great music; besides the title song and “Impossible dream”, “Were Only Thinking of Him”, “Dulcinea”,”Knight of The Woeful Countenance” and the strong music of “the Abduction” to end the first act, this is a romantic story about vision and dreams- that we are all just a little crazy in our desires and as one line states, “Facts are the enemy of truth”, which means that perhaps we should all step back a bit and look at our lives. Sure , we all face “windmills” and must decide to avoid them or face them. The staff at Light Opera Works, I am sure looking at what it would take to make this production a reality, knowing that we have a James Harms in town , chose to face their windmill, and they, unlike Quixote, won!

“Man of LaMancha” will only be available to bear witness to  through the 26th of August at the beautiful Cahn Auditorium located at 600 Emerson ( just north of downtown, where Chicago Avenue meets Sheridan Road) with performances as follows:

Sunday, August 12th at 2 p.m.,Wednesday,the 15th at 2 p.m.,Friday the 17th at 8 p.m.,Saturday the 18th at 8 p.m.,Sunday the 19th at 2 p.m. and then

Wednesday the 22nd at 2 p.m.,Saturday the 25th at 8 p.m. and Sunday the 26th at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $32-$92 (under 21 years of  age, half price) and can be purchased by calling 847-920-5360 or online at www.LightOperaWorks.com

see what others think at www.theatreinchicago.com go to review round-up and click on Man of Lamancha 

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