Theatre Review: Man of La Mancha

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There’s one song EVERYBODY knows from “Man of La Mancha” – even folks who haven’t seen it.

(“To Dream the Impossible Dream”)

But there are plenty of additional reasons to enjoy this revival. I liked the way director Guy Stroman (music rising) starts the production with a dimly-lit Flamenco-style flourish, and then plunges us into the filthy prison where the story begins. He reminds us that 400 years ago, the Spanish Inquisition was burning people at the stake on trumped up charges. This story’s leading man has been sent to the dungeon because he’s done something guaranteed to infuriate the padres.

“I made an assessment against the monastery, and when they refused to pay, I issued a lien on the property.”
“You did what?”
“He foreclosed on a church.”

Everybody laughs. But then the executioner sends for one of the prisoners, who’s dragged out screaming by two burly guards. That’s the way things happen in “Man of La Mancha.”  You need to experience gallantry and lunacy, absurd humor and sudden tragedy by turns. That stark contrast is what makes this production successful, because the show can melt into drippy sentimental goo if things get too cheerful. But when you let in some momentary gloom, it provides the ballast that keeps the show’s buoyant message of hope sailing on an even keel.

The Music Circus production of “Man of La Mancha” continues at the Wells Fargo Pavilion through this Sunday, August 16th.