Passionate Quixote drives powerful show
James Harms (left), and Cary Lovett in Light Opera Works' "Man of La Mancha." | Photo by Jasmin Shah
Light Opera Works, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday Aug. 17-18; 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug 19; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22; 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25; and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26
(847) 920-5360 or visit www.LightOperaWorks.com
Updated: August 15, 2012 10:06AM
The pivotal moment in “Man of La Mancha” is Don Quixote’s song “The Quest,” better known as “The Impossible Dream.” It should break our hearts with its passion and hope. And we must be convinced that our slightly “mad” knight-errant believes every word.
Happily, that is exactly what happened the evening of Saturday Aug. 11, in Cahn Auditorium, when Light Opera Works opened its new production of the 1965 Broadway musical by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion. LOW’s man of La Mancha is James Harms, whose eyes are so ablaze with idealism that we cannot help but believe him and wish him well.
His slender frame gives him the appearance of fragility and makeup ages him appropriately. He has a strong voice and when a note can’t be comfortably sung, he speaks it to powerful effect.
So ideally does he embody the musical’s beloved hero that as he lies on his deathbed, he seems as pale as his bed covers.
The compelling story of this multiple Tony Award-winning musical, with a book by Dale Wasserman, charts the adventures of a delusional old man, who thinks he is a knight and calls himself Don Quixote. It is told in the form of a play, narrated by 17th- century writer Cervantes (also played by Harms) as he waits in prison for the judgement of the Spanish Inquisition.
Aldonza, the scullery maid at the roadside stop which Quixote mistakes for a castle, becomes the object of his chaste affection. She is played by Colette Todd, who makes the cynical spitfire her own. Her triumph is the searing solo “Aldonza,” surely one of the saddest musical autobiographies ever written.
Quixote’s manservant Sancho Panza is charmingly portrayed by Cary Lovett. He brings a little sunshine to the dismal prison and/or roadside inn where the story plays out.
The able cast includes Alex Honzen as the ever-patient Innkeeper, Bill Chamberlain as the compassionate Padre, and Edward J. MacLennan as the manipulative Dr. Carrasco.
LOW’s artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller is stage director and choreographer. Moments when Quixote and Sancho “ride off” on two horses provide delightful distractions. But the director also had to work out several fierce stage fights and a chilling rape sequence at the end of the first act.
In a marvelous bit of stagecraft, scenic designer Adam L. Veness turns the Cahn stage into a dungeon with a walkway and moving draw-bridge above, sturdy enough to bear several men climbing on it at once.
In her Light Opera Works debut, Nyela Basney conducts the 16-piece pit orchestra, delivering the show’s melody-rich score with precision and power.
Light Opera Works is presenting a superior production of this unusually operatic musical. Harms’ rendition of “The Impossible Dream” is the highlight of the show, but his “Dulcinea” is tender and his “I am I, Don Quixote” is full of zest. It’s one of the best shows of the year.