Man of La Mancha @ Stages St  Louis

Man of La Mancha @ Stages St Louis

James Wolk’s scenic design is fully visible
before the start of “Man of La Mancha” at Stages St. Louis. This imposing set creates high expectations,
and the production that follows lives up to them. The action in Dale Wasserman’s book takes
in the prison where Miguel de Cervantes is awaiting his appearance before the Spanish
Inquisition. When his fellow prisoners convene a kangaroo
court as a pretext for seizing all his possessions, Cervantes defends himself by acting out the
story in the one possession that matters to him, the manuscript of “Don Quixote.” Cervantes himself takes the title role. His servant plays Sancho Panza. The prisoners quickly take up the other parts,
but the framing story of Cervantes’ imprisonment is never forgotten. James Patterson has the full measure of the
double role of Cervantes and his knight. The show’s great number about the impossible
dream is not just a vocal showpiece for him. He shapes the lyrics with inspiring reverence. Amanda Robles plays Aldonza, the embittered
serving wench whom Don Quixote sees an ideal of womanhood named Dulcinea. The range of this part is remarkably wide,
both vocally and emotionally, and Robles gets it all. Patrick John Moran is unfailingly loyal and
unfailingly entertaining as Sancho. The stellar supporting cast includes Steve
Isom as the governor of the prison in the framing story and the innkeeper in the play
within the play, and Ryan Cooper as the barber whose shaving basin is mistaken for a golden
helmet. Coping with Don Quixote’s fantasies is not
easy for the members of delusional knight’s houselhold: Julie Hanson as his daughter;
Ryan Jesse as Dr. Carrasco, her fiancé, Erik Keiser as the Padre, and Zoe Vonder Haar as
the housekeeper. They sing beautifully together in the ironically
titled number, “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” The show moves with purpose, speed, and eye-appeal
thanks to Michael Hamilton’s direction and musical staging, Dana Lewis’s choreography,
Brad Musgrove’s costumes and Sean M. Savoie’s lighting. The songs with Mitch Leigh’s music and Joe
Darion lyrics sound wonderful thanks to Lisa Campbell Albert’s musical direction and
Stuart M. Elmore orchestral design. This “Man of La Mancha” brings Stages’
2019 season to a splendid conclusion.

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