I have a very special place in my heart for “Man of La Mancha” because it was among the first Broadway musicals I saw as a college theater student. Since then, I’ve seen numerous professional, community and educational theater production. A timeless work, I never tire of, I had the opportunity to experience it once again Wednesday during a dress rehearsal preview of the Indianapolis Opera production which opens tonight at 8 p.m. and is followed by performances on Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 25 at 2:30 p.m. at the Schrott Center on the Butler University Campus.
“Man of La Mancha premiered on Broadway in 1965. With a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, and music by Mitch Leigh. the musical is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes and his seventeenth-century masterpiece Don Quixote. A play within a play “Man of La Mancha” follows the adventures of a nobleman who lives in a world of fantasy in which he battles evil and fights for justice as a chivalrous knight Performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners, the play is presented as the writer awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.
The IO production was directed by David Craig Starkey, the company’s new general directer, with John Clayton expertly conducting a fine pickup orchestra. The large cast features David Cardiff, who spent twelve seasons as a leading baritone at the Met, as Don Quixote. Cardiff was superb as the stoic and goodhearted knight who strives to undo evils and commanding as he sung the musical’s most well known song, “The Impossible Dream.”
Tenor Scott Wichael showed comic flair as Don Quixote’s loyal sidekick Sancho. Wichael as Sancho exuded charm while singing “I Really Like Him,” his reply to a question about why he follows his unbalanced master.
Soprano Karin Mushegai, as the hardened prostitute Aldonza who Don Quixote believes is the virtuous Dulcenea, turned in a impressive vocal and acting performance. Mushegai was particularly powerful when she sang “Aldonza”—a plea to the delusional knight to see her as she really is.
Overall, the IO production was a satisfying experience but lacked a level of dynamic energy possessed by musical theatre performers as opposed to opera singers for whom the vocals take precedent. Also, the pace of the production drug at times. Still, the musical’s magnificent score interpreted by the company of splendid singers and its inspirational story more than made up for the production’s imperfections.
Tickets for “Man of La Mancha” can only be ordered by calling the Indianapolis Opera Center at (317) 283-3531 or ordering online at www.indyopera.org. Any unsold tickets will be available at the door. Prices range from $25 – $75; students tickets are $20; and groups of 10 or more receive a 10% discount.