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Theater review: Pioneer Theatre Company’s “Man of La Mancha”

by on May 7, 2012

Long-time artistic director Charles Morey exits Pioneer Theatre Company on a high note, directing a stirring take of the classic musical Man of La Mancha.

The show is a multi-layered wonder, apt considering the story stretches back through older theatrical productions, novels and songs all the way to the 13th century. And this Tony-winning musical version is a wonder of storytelling; as Morey explains in his director’s note on the play, Man of La Mancha offers a fictional story of poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes, who is imprisoned and then recruits some fellow prisoners to perform the story of Alonso Quijana, who in turn acts out the story of Don Quixote.

“In other words,” Morey writes, “within the play itself, you have four layers of theatrical reality–of metaphor–compounding the layers of literary, dramatic and mythic tradition.”

For this non-musical lover, the creative storytelling and quick pace of the production helped me get into the show when in other song-heavy shows, it’s not so easy. And truth be told, the vocal talents of the powerful William Michals as Cervantes/Don Quixote is simply impossible to resist. His charming performance as the eccentric old romantic is one of the best I’ve seen in a musical production, a winning combination of acting prowess and vocal finesse that never delved into over-the-top histrionics.

L-R: Christine Moore as Moorish Dancer, William Michals as Don Quixote and Daniel Marcus as Sancho. Photo by Alexander Weisman.

Michals was the clear highlight of a strong, large cast. Maria Eberline delivered the true fire and passion as the object of Don Quixote’s affection, Aldonza, but her voice wasn’t quite in the same league as Michals’ in the show I saw. Daniel Marcus, as Don Quixote’s faithful servant Sancho Panza, was also strong in offering regular comic relief, and he had a couple of solo songs that worked well.

As always with shows at Pioneer, the stage production was striking. The prison set was a majestic, pliable thing, with the actors helping the action move smoothly from the “reality” of the prison to the imagination of Don Quixote’s tale–Morey’s charges moved fluidly back and forth among the scenes, and it was easy for the audience to move right along with them. The costumes were excellent, particularly Michals ever-changing outfits, and the Spanish-inflected music delivered by a live orchestra was rock-solid throughout–and utterly thrilling at times.

You can say the same for the entire show. The Man of La Mancha runs at Pioneer Memorial Theatre through May 19. Visit the Pioneer Website for showtimes, tickets and more information.

From → Theater reviews

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