Monday, May 16, 2016

Man of La Mancha—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

“…Perchance, to Dream…”

This highly acclaimed musical is written for the stage by Dale Wasserman, directed by Greg Tamblyn and musical direction by Alan D. Lytle.  It is playing at their site, 368 S. State St. (parking lot in the rear of the bldg.), through June 12th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

Yes, this is the “Impossible Dream” musical and it is not to be missed!  It is the story of Courage, against all odds…the Right to have dreams, and be able to fulfill them, regardless of who you are…and the desire to create a better world for all people.  It is not of world of facts and figures…of cement and skyscrapers; it is a world of living things, all of whom matter.  It is a world of endless possibilities…only Pass to this magical world, is that you need to have Hope and…Believe.

The story is simple (or is it?).  A man, Cervantes (Leif Norby), is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition for writing subversive material and daring, as a tax collector, to tax the Church.  But, during this period of time the right to a speedy trial was not an option.  And so he, and his faithful companion, Sancho (Joey Cóte), must face a trial of a different sort, from the prisoners themselves.  If he loses, all of his worldly possessions become theirs.  But he does insist upon a defense, in which he will tell his story and they are all to take on the various characters in his little drama.

In it, he becomes a Knight Errant, Don Quixote, whose mission is to rid the world of evil.  But, there is one little glitch in his plan, he has not been properly been dubbed a Knight.  And so he must find a castle (in actuality, an Inn) and have the Lord of the manor (an Innkeeper, Stacey Murdock) bestow upon him Knighthood.  He must also have a Lady, Dulcinea (Pam Mahon), in which he will dedicate his conquests for (in reality, Aldonza, a scullery maid and local whore).  He will also meet a Barber (Dan Bahr) who possesses what Quixote sees as a priceless object, the Golden Helmet of Mambrino (in reality, a shaving bowl).  But his greatest fear is to meet The Great Enchanter, who will cloud his visions.

But his ramblings are also played out on the home front, too, in which he has a niece, Antonia (Malia Tippets) who is to marry Dr. Currasco (Corey Brunish), who is trying to cure Cervantes of this curious malady that he is really a Knight, fighting imaginary beasts.  And he has his housekeeper (Susan Overcast) who is sweet on him, and his best friend, the Padre (Ron Harman), who sympathizes with him.  I think you see where this is going, the realities vs. the dreams and which will dominate.  And to find out the conclusion, you’ll just have to experience it for yourself, won’t  you?

The dilemma is as old as the hills.  Do we accept the cold reality which we have been presented, or do we create our own, from our warm hopes and dreams?  As the Doctor is endeavoring to force the former, chilly reality upon Cervantes, I am reminded of a simple line from a play called, Harvey, in which a man has created an invisible rabbit to help him cope with the harshness of Life.  When his relatives opt for a shot to cure him of the malady, a cab driver comments on how pleasant his fares are when he brings them here but when they leave, they are definitely like a “normal” person “and you know what bastards they are,” he adds.  That may sum up the reality Quixote is being forced into.

Children seem to have a grasp on this alternate world but somehow it gets lost when we grow into adulthood.  What happens?  I believe we are taught, as the song goes, “…to hate and to fear,” and so most of us play along in order to survive with this grim prospect.  Like lemmings, many of us may go over the cliff just because others do.  But a child, in his or her play-times and fairy tales, is able to combat these dragons and thus the scary Unknown is conquered.  As adults most of us have no such defense.  One more thing, before I get off my soapbox, it is also said, “a child shall lead them.”  Perhaps we should heed that adage.

When observing the scope of this production, my friend, Deanna, remarked that she, being a musical theatre expert in her own right (having founded the www.portlandmusicaltheater.org which will begin productions in October with a Revue of Disney songs) said that she instinctively will pick out things in a production that she would do differently or don’t work.  But she found herself in this show unable to find even one thing that didn’t make sense.  High praise, indeed, and I concur.

Tamblyn has a huge winner on his hands and, like his Pixie Dust Productions, this has the polish of a professional.  Likewise the band, under Lytle’s skillful direction and Glenn Gauers’s terrific set, as well as Margaret Louise Chapman’s amazing costumes and subtle but effective lighting (Kurt Herman) and sound (Marcus Storey), they all blend so beautifully together!  And the supporting cast is totally in sync with this vision (Joe Theissen, Ryan Monaghan, Bruce Lawson, William Shindler, Jeremy Southard, Jeremy Garfinkle, Larry James Taylor and the amazing voice of Sam Mowry as the Captain).

Norby is the perfect Quixote both in voice and acting.  He has been around for many years playing leads in musicals and his expertise shows to the fullest in this production!  Cóte is the perfect sidekick, always supportive of his “master.”  And his voice and expressions are a perfect match for this.  Mahon has a super voice and this very complex character(s) are expertly handled in her hands.  She plays to a tee the gal with a tough exterior but who has a soft heart.  And the rest of the actors are equally powerful.

Also, dreams always have a start somewhere.  This is one of the early shows that Deanna saw that inspired her to go into musical theatre.  And now, some years later, she has caught that dream and now has a company of her own.  “Dreams really can come true, they can happen to you…”  I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.