Man of La Mancha at Huntington Beach Playhouse

A Robust “La Mancha” on HB Stage

By Tom Titus

Few musicals stir the heartfelt passions quite so much as “Man of La Mancha,” particularly in its closing number as the heretofore cruel and sardonic prisoners join in the chorus of “The Impossible Dream” as the show’s hero climbs the steps to the Inquisition.

This musical version of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel “Don Quixote” sparked a 1965 Broadway musical that ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, then enjoyed four Broadway revivals. It’s powerful and moving entertainment whether on a professional or community theater stage.

In the robust revival now being offered by the Huntington Beach Playhouse, there is both musical excellence and heart-tugging drama, spearheaded by three of the finest talents ever to locally interpret the characters created by Dale Wasserman (book), Mitch Leigh (music) and Joe Darion (lyrics). It all comes together in an excellent production under the direction of Larry Watts, who also choreographed and costumed the show.

As the “mad knight” who sallies forth to right all wrongs and rescue damsels in distress (in a period 300 years removed from knighthood’s flower), Russell Montooth is outstanding. Slight of build but strong of voice, Montooth breathes both life and credibility into the fabled Don Quixote character as he battles enemies real and imagined, ultimately surrendering to grim reality.

Adriana Sanchez is the gold standard of musical theater actresses in Orange County, and her presence as the fiery kitchen wench/harlot Aldonza should be motivation enough for playgoers to line up at the Huntington Beach box office. Sanchez commands the stage in a role she most likely was born to play, melding a surprising physical talent with her unsurprisingly  superb vocal tones.

As Quixote’s wiser companion and servant Sancho Panza, Randy Calcetas skillfully plays against the corpulent type of his character, contributing a winning zaniness to the role. Calcetas is ever alert to the comic potential of his mission.

Taking command of the action both in prison and in the makeshift tavern is Jason Robert Hoskins, who excels more as an actor than a singer as the Governor/Innkeeper. Rick Dale offers a somber note as the padre, ministering to Quixote’s niece (Katie Roberts) and housekeeper (Audrey Weidermann).

Brady Porter solidly interprets the niece’s fiancé, Dr. Sanson Carrasco, who holds the key to returning the old man to sanity. Steve Shane impresses in his brief cameo as a barber, while Stephanie LeHane wriggles convincingly as a larcenous belly dancer.

Under Watts’ choreography and the musical direction of Mike Walker, the production throbs with both dramatic and comedic intensity. It’s an “Impossible Dream” realized at the Huntington Beach Playhouse.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: “Man of La Mancha”
WHO: Huntington Beach Playhouse
WHERE: Library Theater, 7171 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach
WHEN: Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Jan. 31
COST: $20 – $18
CALL: (714) 375-0696

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