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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 43
5th Avenue Theatre's Man of La Mancha a winning production
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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5th Avenue Theatre's Man of La Mancha a winning production

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

MAN OF LA MANCHA
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through October 30


When it comes to the Golden Age of Theatre, the 5th Avenue's productions shine on stage. Their latest undertaking is the musical Man of La Mancha, based on the classic novel Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. Revisiting the 5th Avenue stage for the first time in over 20 years, Man of La Mancha begat perhaps one of the world's most optimistic anthems, '(To Dream) The Impossible Dream.'

The story tells of an elderly Spanish man who slips away into delirium. He comes to believe he is a Knight, despite none have been seen in hundreds of years, and on a mission to fight all the evils of the world. With his squire, Sancho, a man who has kept his wits but placates his master's delusion, the men go off in search of adventures and to fight evil sorcerers, doers-of-evil, and the giants that are disguised as harmless windmills. When they come to a small village, they meet a group of thugs (called the Muleteers) and a woman named Aldonza, a kitchen whore. Quixote proclaims her to be Dulcinea, the Sweetest of All Fair Maidens to the amusement and disgust of all around. Quixote's biological niece gets involved, with her fiancé - a man of science, and together they drag her poor misguided Uncle back to reality leaving us all to ponder the concept that all those who wander may not be truly lost.

The Ensemble of this show is excellent. The Muleteers all add subtle nuances to their supporting, background roles, but that in no way diminishes the importance they play. The cast does a great job with subtle inflections that help to make this show enjoyable. Nick DeSantis, playing the Padre, adds his voice, which is perfectly suited to the sweet, innocent song, 'To Each His Dulcinea,' a song encouraging people to follow their dreams while still realizing that they are fantasy.

Nova Y. Payton plays Aldonza, the kitchen scullion who gets caught up in Quixote's delusions of grandeur. Despite a strong stage presence, her voice (and beauty) lends itself to a sweeter demeanor. There is no doubt that Aldonza is an alley cat not to be crossed, but Ms. Payton brings an innocence that softens the character's edges. We are easily brought along through the transformation that Aldonza goes through in order to become Dulcinea. Ms. Payton's voice is sweet and captures the audience's empathy and admiration.

Don Darryl Rivera plays Quixote's ever-faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza. Rivera brings a delightful persona to this character. Ever cheerful, faithful and dedicated, Sancho realizes the Knight's folly, yet blissfully follows along. Rivera's charm is natural, graceful and easygoing, adding to the comic relief without being cartoonish or cliché. From the simple little body gestures to the impenetrable smile plastered on his face, the character of Sancho inadvertently steals every scene he is included in.

The lead of the show is Rufus Bonds Jr., playing the duel roles of Cervantes and Quixote. Bonds' natural abilities play Quixote with a certain air of confusion and befuddlement, again without becoming a stereotype of madness. We never quite get submerged in Quixote's illusions, but rather are allowed glimpses into his mind. The line between Cervantes and Quixote is minimal, but we (the audience) can still go along with the transformation.

Man of La Mancha is a wonderful musical and the 5th Avenue Theatre does a great job presenting it. The newly installed sound system allows the audience to understand every word of either spoken dialogue or song; and that makes a show like this even more enjoyable. The audience already knows the breakaway hit song from this show, and it is truly enchanting to hear 'The Impossible Dream' clearly, precisely and sung with great emotion.

Man of La Mancha first appeared on Broadway in 1965 and ran for over 2300 performances. Although not claiming to be faithful to the original novel, the story of the 'mad' Knight went on to win five Tony Awards including Richard Kiley for Best Actor in a Musical. The show went on to inspire the film version that starred Peter O'Toole as the Knight, James Coco as Sancho, and Sophia Loren as Aldonza. The musical has been revived on Broadway four times including the most recent presentation in 2002 with Brian Stokes Mitchell as Quixote and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Aldonza.

For more information and tickets, visit https://www.5thavenue.org/, call the box office at 206-625-1900 or visit the box office at 1308 5th Avenue.

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