Man of La Mancha
Of course, it almost isn't fair that he's paired with an opera singer. Julia Migenes plays Aldonza, the serving girl/prostitute whom Quixote believes is a high-born lady. Migenes first appears singing "It's All the Same," while flirting with a table of rough Muleteers. Her vocal is powerful, and her portrayal spot-on. Even though Aldonza is comically putting down all the men, there's an underlying sexual tension to the number, and it's clear that Aldonza's superiority is only by leave of the men. And once Quixote decides that Aldonza is his beautiful Dulcinea, Migenesever so briefly at firstreplaces Aldonza's world-weary grin with a genuine smile lit from within. There's no deep psychological interpretation at work in Migenes's approach to Aldonzathis is simply a woman who has never been told that she's beautiful or worthy of respect, and when she finally hears it, even from a lunatic, she is transformed. It seems so simple, but there's a truth here, and it's powerful. If anything, Migenes overplays things by getting a tad too physical with her emotional displays; she doesn't need towe're crying already.
The rest of the company is top drawer. Lee Wilkof brings the comic relief as Sancho Panza; George Ball is delightful as the kindly innkeeper; and Robert Mammana is terrific as the understanding Padrehis delicate "To Each His Dulcinea" is a thing of beauty. Kitty McNamee's choreography is at its best when it's not trying to be funnythe slapstick fight Quixote has with the Muleteers is way too slow to actually land (and some of the Muleteers display an elegance of movement that seems out of place); the "Abduction" is much more effective.
The show opens with the cast appearing onstage without any dimming of the lights or pre-show announcement. Lap-Chi Chu's lights play off Tom Buderwitz's columnar set in ways that are somehow both oppressive and suggestive of hope. Director Michael Michetti is doing a rather brilliant job of setting a mood here ... and then it is all shot to hell with the pre-show announcement. The show recovers, but if there is any way for the ushers to tell people about the exits (and to turn off their cell phones) to avoid the pre-show announcement, the production would be better for it. This Man of La Mancha runs without intermissioninterrupting our journey into Cervantes's world at the top of the show defeats the purpose and momentarily destroys the illusion.
Man of La Mancha runs through March 1 at UCLA's Freud Playhouse. For tickets and information, see www.reprise.org.
Reprise Theatre Company -- Jason Alexander, Artistic Director; Susan Dietz, Producing Director; Danny Feldman, Managing Director -- presents Man of La Mancha. Written by Dale Wasserman; Music by Mitch Leigh; Lyrics by Joe Darion. Scenic Design Tom Buderwitz; Costume Design Garry Lennon; Lighting Design Lap-Chi Chu; Sound Design Philip G. Allen; Associate Music Director Matthew Smedal; Music Coordinator Joe Soldo; Technical Director Chris Batstone; Production Stage Manager Vernon Willet; Casting Director Michael Donovan, CSA; Press Representative Davidson & Choy Publicity; Marketing Allied Live; director of Development Christine Bernardi; Production Coordinator Rob Rudolph. Musical Direction by Brad Ellis; Choreographed by Kitty McNamee; Directed by Michael Michetti.