Man of La Mancha
Book by Dale Wasserman; Music by Mitch Leigh; Lyrics by Joe Darion; Music Direction by Darren R. Cohen; Choreography by Greg Graham; Directed by Julianne Boyd
Barrington Stage Company, Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield
June 10-July 11
Tickets are $20 and up, barringtonstage.org.
I had the pleasure of seeing Barrington Stage Company’s 2015 season opener, “Man of La Mancha” on opening night. Barrington Stage delivered a fantastic production. The play within a play tells the story of Don Quixote, a man who was so disturbed by the ugly in the world, that his sanity fractured and he envisioned himself a fantasy world of beauty and honor. And when this character is asked “Why?” he answered “To bring a measure of grace into the world.”
BSC’s production marks the 50th Anniversary of “Man of La Mancha,” one of Broadway’s most cherished musicals and winner of multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical. It’s a timely celebration because it’s a relevant time to ask ourselves: “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where the madness lies?” I ask myself this very question – often. I’m reminded that the concept of being sane in an insane world is not a new one and not singular to me.
Sometimes, I do literally feel like my brain will break trying to comprehend the hate and violence in the world in which we live. And, that is just what happens to this character. And we are given permission to seek personal happiness in a harsh world – even if it means going a little mad. “Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
The production is led by BSC veteran Jeff McCarthy as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote, who dazzles the audience with a superb display of his acting prowess and vocal range. Mr. McCarthy is supported by fine direction, a gorgeous set, beautiful lighting, fine orchestration and a superior supporting cast deserving of the enthusiastic standing ovation and cheers at the curtain call.
An immediate standing ovation with cheers is the type of audience response that is something powerful to be a part of. This is just the type of magic one can expect to find when attending summer theater in the Berkshires. This is especially true at Barrington Stage where one can count on Broadway caliber productions in an intimate setting where the air conditioning feels just right after an afternoon in the hot sun.
Maybe the standing ovation in part had to do with the excitement of Barrington Stage’s opening night of their 10th anniversary season in Pittsfield, but I think it was for Jeff McCarthy, and deservedly so. Felicia Boswell held her own opposite Mr. McCarthy, which is impressive. It’s clear this woman was born for the stage and her performance was professional and theatrical. Some of her vocals were raspy – at times I felt it was intentional to deliver emotion but once or twice, I found myself wondering if she maybe had a chest cold. That said; this beautiful woman knows how to move! She moves with such control and intention, it’s lovely to behold.
Standing out for me is Sean MacLaughlin as The Duke and Dr. Carrasco. He is super handsome, natural and perfect in the roles. But the true highlight is Todd Horman as the Captain of the Inquisition and Padre. His acting is fine and his vocals are divine! I loved listening to this man sing. The ensemble is quite impressive as well.
Go ahead and bring your teens to this production. Yes, there is some violence and sex and a “rape” but in this BSC production, it is simulated through dance – it’s just theatrics and not graphic at all. And refreshingly, this production does not fall back on a display of “T&A” (although some of the men is this ensemble are rather hot!).
I was moved more than I usually am at the theater at this performance and I think it’s altered me, in some way, to work harder to bring my own measure of grace into the world. You can’t get more theatrical than that.