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Washington DC by Tracy Lyon

Man Of La Mancha

Brian Stokes MitchellWith so many revivals emerging on the current theater scene, many may ask why should Man Of La Mancha be the next one to be thrust upon the boards? The reason may be summed up in three words - Brian Stokes Mitchell. The role of Don Quixote is one he was born to play. Mitchell's voice has never sounded better and he handles the comic moments with panache. The veteran Broadway actor who has had success with musicals such as Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate portrays this fanciful romantic with a vigor and skill that at times eclipses his well-known leading lady.

As the kitchen whore Aldonza, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio doesn't always hold her own against her dynamic leading man. Known for her numerous roles in films such as The Perfect Storm and The Color Of Money, Mastrantonio's performance is inconsistent. At times she can be quite heartbreaking but more often than not, her delivery seems forced. Vocally, Miss Mastrantonio is just not up to the task of singing this role.

As Sancho, Don Quixote's faithful servant, Ernie Sabella is quite amusing. Also a veteran of stage and screen, Sabella (Guys and Dolls, Chicago) portrays this lovable character with zest. Unfortunately, he does have a habit of screaming many of his lines for comic effect. Perhaps his frequent yelling is meant to draw attention because he sometimes seems to get lost in the flurry of activity on stage. At any rate, his portrayal can seem a bit over the top at times. However, it is easily overlooked because his overall performance is so enjoyable.

These three are backed up by a fine cast. Particular standouts are Mark Jacoby as Padre and Stephan Bogardus as Carrasco. Additionally, Natascia Diaz provides a noteworthy portrayal of Antonia, the old dreamer's selfish niece.

Jonathan Kent is directing this pre-Broadway run, which is slated to open in New York on December 5th. Mr. Kent has made some interesting choices. At times the stage seems too busy and some of the characters don't make the impact they should. Luis Perez' choreography is quite effective, but overall there is definitely a need for tweaking before the show opens to New York audiences. Nonetheless, the piece is quite pleasurable to watch.

The set by designer Paul Brown is commanding, and along with Paul Gallo's lighting, the production is visually striking. Mr. Brown has designed the costumes as well and they are appropriate to the mood and period of the piece.

The book by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion still holds up. Most of us are familiar with La Mancha's more popular songs, "Man Of La Mancha" and "Impossible Dream." The latter has been performed so much, that it often feels stale. However, Mr. Mitchell makes this song his own, and watching him perform it is a thrilling experience.

Those who want to experience that thrill can still catch Man Of La Mancha at Washington's National Theatre through November 10th.

The National Theatre
Man Of La Mancha
October 8th - November 10th
Book by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh and Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed by Jonathan Kent
Choreographed by Luis Perez
1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Ticket Information: 1-800-722-4990 or www.telecharge.com

Cast List

Cervantes/Don Quixote: Brian Stokes Mitchell
Captain of the Inquisition: Frederick B. Owens
Sancho: Ernie Sabella
Governor/Innkeeper: Don Mayo
Duke/Carrasco: Stephen Bogardus
Aldonza: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Quito: Andy Blankenbuehler
Tenorio: Timothy J. Alex
Juan: Thom Sesma
Paco: Dennis Stowe
Anselmo: Bradley Dean
Pedro: Gregory Mitchell
Jose: Wilson Mendieta
Maria: Michelle Rios
Antonia: Natascia Diaz
Padre: Mark Jacoby
Housekeeper: Olga Merediz
Barber: Jamie Torcellini
Guard: John Herrera
Guard: Jimmy Smagula
Gypsy Dancer: Lorin Latarro
Gypsy Dancer: Andy Blankenbuehler
Prisoner: Allyson Tucker
Onstage Guitarist: Robin Polseno


Photo: Joan Marcus


-- Tracy Lyon


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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