As I was telling some friends and family that I was headed to see a production of “Man of La Mancha” this evening, I was getting a lot of sympathetic responses: “Oh man, that show is so long”, “Don’t you wish you were going to a comedy”, “When I saw that show, I thought it was so boring”. And I’ll admit, there was some concern on my part. I was in this show before and even I knew that it had a tendency to put people to sleep. But tonight was something quite different in fact. Tonight I was engaged, interested what was going to happen next, I laughed a lot, cried once and felt the whole gamut of emotions. Scarborough Music Theatre did the unthinkable: they made “Man of La Mancha” interesting again!
Tonight marked my 11th show since the commencement of 2017 and it also marked only the 2nd time in my community theatre viewing life that someone received thunderous applause while he was still singing. The humble recipient of the audience’s love tonight, was Mr. Jeff Dell. Jeff portrayed the role of Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha (or for you actual Spanish speakers in my readership, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha). Quixote is a tough role to play. He sings low, he sings high, he’s sane one minute and then transforming windmills into evil villains with his mind in the next moment. You’ve got to be all over the map with this character yet, oddly, completely in control. Jeff just returned to the wonderful, magical world of community theatre after a 30 year hiatus and I must say this is quite the way to make a comeback! His voice soared through “The Impossible Dream” and when he hit that final note, every single audience member gasped and applauded. Welcome back Jeff! I have a feeling I’ll be seeing much more of you in the future.
Don Quixote’s faithful squire is played by the lovable Ed Hou. This is such an amazing role and pretty much the only comedic relief in a very dramatic show. Ed was spectacular as Sancho Panza. He was larger than life, funny as all hell and sang those super high tenor songs with ease. He and Jeff worked so well together and really bounced off each other’s mad acting skills. Any job positions out there for a squire? If so, I know just the man for the job!
The role of the kitchen-whore, Aldonza, was played by the adorable Carina Cautillo. But tonight she left “adorable” backstage and brought grit, sex and pain as her companions on stage. Singing the role of Aldonza is a great challenge as it was written to be a classic soprano role, but yet she’s a whore…. typically the mezzos are rocking it out as the whores on stage. So how do you take lovely lyric soprano sound and still represent the anguish and trauma of a character like Aldonza? It takes skill and the ability to completely let go of that “oh-so-perfect- soprano persona. Carina gave a raw performance tonight and really stole the show with her title song “Aldonza”.
For weeks now SMT has been plugging their set design for this show on their social media. I’ll admit, I was intrigued when I saw photos they were posting, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight I was to see as I entered the theatre. It was so intricate & detailed, with levels, a staircase, a secret basement and set dressing that transported you into a whole new world. What was truly wonderful about it is that it never changed! I HATE SET CHANGES! and quite frankly believe that they should only occur in professional theatre where there is automation moving the set pieces for you. There are two main locations in this show: the dungeon and then the Inn. Obviously incredibly different, but William Corcoran managed to design a set that worked for both locations. The only things that moved on the stage were the actors and the lights and I LOVED IT! #noawkwardsetchanges
- To Paul Harris & Karen Brown – the husband & wife lighting design power team for lightin’ up Mr. Corcoran’s set with some beautiful combinations of colours.
- To the orchestra, hand’s down the BEST I have heard this season, for bringing the stunning orchestrations of Mitch Leigh to life.
- To Rob Lachance for being dirty and threatening as Pedro, and looking pretty damn good with this shirt off.
- To Dan McEachern for a dark & strong portrayal of Dr. Carrasco/Duke/Knight of Mirrors.
Congratulations to all involved in Scarborough Music Theatre’s production of “Man of La Mancha”! This is a classic musical that you do not want to miss. Tickets are available at http://www.thaetrescarborough.com for performances running May 4-20 @ 3600 Kingston Road.
Photography by Raph Nogal Photography