Cervantes' Masterpiece as a Musical
On March 24-26 Capitol City Opera presented their production of the beloved musical Man of La Mancha. The musical retells Cervantes' masterwork, Don Quixote, using the premise that Cervantes, captured by the Spanish Inquisition, recreates the story of his renowned work as a play within the walls of the Spanish prison where he is held, using other prisoners as his cast. The device of the play-within-a-play allows the musical to reproduce some of the most beloved scenes from the two-part novel (which itself often uses meta-dramatic devices) without the more laborious sections. We see Don Quixote jousting with windmills, for example, but are spared the lengthy section where Quixote's library is enumerated and burned. In the midst of Quixote's chivalrous delusions and mishaps are some great songs, like the earworn "The Impossible Dream." Bring together one of the greatest novels ever written with music by the likes of Mitch Leigh and one can see why the original 1965 production won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Even fifty years later the work still seems fresh, probably owing to the timeless quality of Cervantes' narrative.
An Ambitious Production
Where this production really shines is in the music. The orchestral accompaniment, as presented by the on-stage ensemble, is deftly performed, supporting some truly fantastic vocal talent. Rachel Eve Holmes as Aldonza, a tavern wench who Quixote transforms in his fevered imagination to the fair Dulcinea, is a particularly powerful performer.
Everything about this production is ambitious, from the intricate movable set pieces to the huge cast to the gestures toward environmental elements, like an actor greeting visitors in the entry hall as one of the prison inmates, or the Inquisition making off with an audience member.
As someone who admires Man of La Mancha's score and story it is somewhat disappointing that this production has had such a short run. Perhaps a longer run would have allowed the show to work out some of the kinks that were obvious to those of us who have seen a lot of musical theater and this play in particular. With a longer run too there might have been time to incorporate the much needed expertise of a good fight choreographer and perhaps work to bring the acting up to the same high level as the music.
If wish lists could continue, one might also hope for a better venue for music in the capable hands of the Capitol City Opera. They were using a less-than-ideal space: the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University which seems to have rather flat acoustics, made more apparent because the performers were not using lavalier microphones.
Despite some flaws, Man of La Mancha was well worth it. This reviewer will be looking forward to Capitol City Opera's next production.
For more information on Capitol City Opera and their future productions visit their website.
Photos: Catherine Giel
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