Man of La Mancha | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Man of La Mancha


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Man of La Mancha, Phoenix Ascending Theatre. Bringing the magic of Don Quixote's chivalrous misadventures to life on Phoenix Ascending's small stage is a challenge fit for a knight-errant. As directed by Stephen R. Roath, this company accomplishes the deed but with little flair. Performing on a drab brown set (designed by the director) that resembles a barn more than a prison, the cast enthusiastically sing and dance their way through a predictable rendition of this well-known musical. The company's one flirtation with originality--using a strobe during a fight scene--doesn't disguise the lack of tension in the limply staged combat.

This is not a bad show--it's simply unsatisfying. Megan Van De Hey has an impressively powerful voice, and her Aldonza is convincingly drawn in by the prospect of being wooed as Dulcinea. As Don Quixote, Jason Sperling has a wonderful voice for the ballad to his lady but doesn't always deliver the vocal power or charisma the role demands. Bailey Boudreau's cowardly yet faithful Sancho garners some laughs, but his performance as the clown lacks subtlety. Other cast members--Emily Pallone, Jeffrey Stringer, Steven Strafford--have strong voices but never fully transform themselves into Cervantes's characters.

Performed without an intermission (perhaps to make way for a late show), this tepid production fails to conjure up the romance and sense of adventure necessary to sustain the work's illusions over two hours.

--Jenn Goddu

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