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McLean Community Players Man of La Mancha

By • Feb 1st, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Man of La Mancha
McLean Community Players
Alden Theatre, McLean, VA
Through February 11th
2:00, with one intermission
$20/$18 Seniors, Students
Reviewed January 28th, 2012

Man of La Mancha boldly goes where no production has gone before.

Since the departure of The Washington Post from reviewing Community Theatre there has been such a meteoric rise of ShowBiz Radio, DC Theatre Scene and the new MD Theatre Guide as well as The Connection and Gazette papers. Filling this void has been a task in which the writers have emerged from all walks of the theatrical background spectrum. Some are new to writing reviews and some have vast experiences in theatre. Some are actors, some are directors and some are theatre enthusiasts but whatever the background, we have all strived to give our best at reviewing the shows we’ve been assigned. The guidelines for us are to be as critical as we wish but always to remember the kind of theatre and what the audience is looking for in reading the review. Ok. This is the standard to which I write the review of Man of La Mancha presented by the McLean Community Players at the Alden Theatre in McLean, Virginia.

It is clear to observe from the start of the show that a lot of attention was paid to the music and vocals. The 12 piece orchestra is wonderful. Under the Music Director Walter McCoy this orchestra really gives you the feeling of a full orchestra. From the overture to finale, you will be very pleased. Many from the audience remained in the audience to hear the finale and gave them their just reward with a big ovation.

The cast, save a few, are well-trained and coached by Vocal Director Rosemary Dyer. She has done a wonderful job in working with Music Director Walter McCoy. I have had the pleasure to either watch as a theatre patron or as a reviewer most of the actors in the W.A.T.C.H. area and was quite simply amazed at how Ms. Dyer was able to get such richness and not before heard color to voices of these actors. Very well done Rosemary.

I could tell right away the stage was lit by the Lighting Designer team of Ken and Patti Crowley. Thank you for adding the visual tones to the emotions of each of the scenes. The lighting of the single back wall transported us from one location to the next as the play unfolded. Your lighting was a pleasure for me to experience.

The set was designed by Bill Brown. It’s a very simple set but did give the feeling of an open space. It did not feel, however, the least bit like a dungeon. More like an open courtyard. The lack of a drawbridge made me feel like this production may have had problems with construction. But when the entire back wall was hoisted at the end of the play to reveal the orchestra, I wondered (and still do) why he never designed this staple feature of this play.

The Costumes for this play were ok, but lacked any signs of the filth and grunge of the peasantry. The facial hair and wig of Don Quixote was all white which seemed to completely cover the actors face. I felt a little robbed when the actor put on a single sided, plastic chest armor plate with a strap around the back and a matching helmet. (must have come from a Halloween costume shop).

In this production, it is clear to see that the emphasis was on the singing. In this regard I will gladly say this cast deserves an A+. Wonderful singing of every vocal note was given by every member of the cast. I especially like the melding voices of “I’m Only Thinking of Him” by Antonia played by Marissa Chapman, Padre played by Rob Vogel and Housekeeper played by Linda Wells. This was my favorite number in this show.

The direction of Man of La Mancha came from Don Petersen. I’m not sure I can state just where he was going with this show. I have seen many renditions of staple stage productions, i.e, putting Shakespeare plays in the Appellation south of America, or modernizing a dated play to fit the culture of a different era, but the direction here didn’t go that way. This direction seemed to be all presentational with a mix of the operatic. Most of the actors just sat on benches, which were all along the walls and when their turn came the actors would jump up to play their scene, and then return to their respective bench. It felt like a high school gym with students waiting for their turn to play hoops.

There was also an apparent push for the comedy in this show. Unfortunately, the comedy at times upstaged characters and at times even upstaged the songs. Having Sancho Panza, played by Nathan Totro play the “director of an orchestra,” robbed the title character of showing his continuing fight for the right. Also, having both of his lead characters talk in soft normal voices, when not singing, made it extremely hard for the audience to hear them speak at all. The final number where Aldonza sings “The Impossible Dream” to the audience and NOT to Cervantes was a very strange directorial choice to me.

After I realized the focus of this production was more for the vocals, I sat back and relaxed and took my critical eye away from the actions and on the stage lighting (which is very cool)and let my mind fulfill that which the director neglected. No drawbridge, presentational directing coupled with too much ‘send-up’ comedy, a fight scene without a real fight? It looked like a scene in Star Wars with a bunch of Wookies fighting R2D2 and C3PO.

With all the problems I had with the directing, I must add the notable acting performances which save this production. Mike Baker in the title role did a great job. I believe he could’ve added more depth to the physicality of Don Quixote, but his nuance and interpretation of his character was spot on. His singing voice was more rich and full than I have ever heard from his past performances, which are way too many to list. Janice Rivera plays Aldonza with zest and her singing is wonderful. I wanted to see more of the “…scum of the earth” of her character, but she was truly a pleasure to watch. Jay Tilley playing the roles Governor, Innkeeper, Moor was a delight. I wished his Governor was more visibly overseeing the proceedings though. Hard to do when you have to play the Moor, but he still needed to have a presence throughout the show. Nathan Tatro plays Sancho Panza with a very comedic flair. His uses of facial expressions get in the way sometimes and he should be careful of upstaging, but his performance was notable.

Photo Gallery

Mike Baker, Jr transforms himself from Cervantes to Quixote  Celina Gomez as Sancho's horse, Mike Baker, Jr. as Don Quixote, Chris Gallegos as Quixote's horse, Nathan Tatro as Sancho Panza
Mike Baker, Jr transforms himself from Cervantes to Quixote
Celina Gomez as Sancho’s horse, Mike Baker, Jr. as Don Quixote, Chris Gallegos as Quixote’s horse, Nathan Tatro as Sancho Panza
Celina Gomez as Sancho's horse, Janice Rivera as Aldonza, Chris Gallegos as Quixote's horse, Nathan Tatro as Sancho Panza Featuring Janice Rivera as Aldonza, Nathan Tatro as Sancho Panza and Jay Tilley as the Innkeeper
Celina Gomez as Sancho’s horse, Janice Rivera as Aldonza, Chris Gallegos as Quixote’s horse, Nathan Tatro as Sancho Panza
Featuring Janice Rivera as Aldonza, Nathan Tatro as Sancho Panza and Jay Tilley as the Innkeeper

Photos by Traci J. Brooks Photography

Cast

  • Cervantes, Don Quixote: Mike Baker, Jr.
  • Sancho Panza: Nathan Tatro
  • Aldonza: Janice Rivera
  • Duke, Dr. Carrasco, Knight of the Mirrors: Lance Adell
  • Governor, Innkeeper. Moor: Jay Tilley
  • Innkeeper’s Wife, -Maria: Mary Ayala-Bush
  • Housekeper: Linda Wells
  • Antonia: Marissa Chapman
  • Fermina: Emily Baden
  • Muleteer Pedro: Peter Halverston
  • Padrre: Rob Vogel
  • Muleteer Anselmo: Brannon Smith
  • Don Quixote’s Horse, Barber: Chris Gallegos
  • Sanchos Horse: Celina Gomez
  • Moorish Dancer: Michelle Jacobeen
  • Muleteer Paco: Nate whiting
  • Muleteer Juan: Jerry Hoffman
  • Muleteer Quinto: Neo Libut, Jr.
  • Muleteer Tenorio: R. Keith Flores
  • Captain of the Inquisition, Muleteer Jose: Tim Voit
  • Prisoners: Lori Roddy, Melissa Jo York-Tilley

Production Team

  • Director: Don Petersen
  • Producers: Kathy and George Farnsworth, Linda Stone
  • Music Director: Walter McCoy
  • Vocal Director: Rosemary Dyer
  • Choreographer: Kayce Allison Schaffer
  • Stage Manager: Annie O’Neil
  • Music Coordinator: Lori Roddy
  • Set Designer: Bill Brown
  • Technical Director: Bob Zeigler
  • Lighting Designers: Ken and Patti Crowley
  • Master Electrician: Nathan Devonshyre
  • Sound Design/Audio Engineers: Bernie Gmiter and Zack Sanders
  • Costume Designer: Kathy Dunlop
  • Fight Choreographer: Carl Brandt Long
  • Media Relations: Brendt Stone, Laura Dailey
  • Publicity Team: Tula and Dell Pendergrast, Jenny Levy, Kathy Farnworth, Patti Green-Roth, Columba Hoban, Terry Yates
  • Hair& Makeup Design: Laura Fontaine
  • Props and Set Dressing: Lynne Lawhead, Molly Pruett, Linda Stone, Nancy Perry and Terry Yates
  • Lighting Operator: Richard Hildebrand
  • Backstage Crew: Shayne Gardner, Thomas Graham, Gregory Lee,Kate Miller, Candice Newman, Sherry Singer, Adrian Steele
  • Rehearsal Pianists: Matt Jeffrey, Lori Roddy
  • Set Painting Design: Dick La Porte
  • Master Carpenters: George Farnsworth, Bill Glikbarg, Bernie Gmiter
  • Set Construction and Painting: Kathy Farnsworth, Bernie Gmiter, Bob Schroth, Bob Zeigler
  • Auditions: Bunny Bonnes, Patti Green-Roth, Columba Hoban, Lynne Lawhead, Tula Pendergrast, Sherry Singer, Linda Stone, Terry Yates

Disclaimer: McLean Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. MCP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

One Response »

  1. I saw the show and enjoyed it thoroughly. One element that I believe is well worth mentioning was the fantastic work of the sound designers and audio engineers, Bernie Gmiter and Zack Sanders. While you rightly complimented the singers and orchestra, it seems to me that we often overlook the fact that without expert decisions regarding placement of sound equipment and very skillful mixing in the booth, the singers’ performances are not fully realized or can be overshadowed by the orchestra. Additionally, the audio engineers’ work is critical to insuring the musicians can hear what is happening on stage so everything is in sync. In a musical, the audio engineers role is critical to insuring a successful marriage between the performers and the musicians. I found this to be the case, and also felt the sound team did a good job of helping improve the soft speaking voices of some of the actors, as you mentioned, while still insuring enough “headroom” to avoid the dreaded feedback scenario. I adored the same number as you- “I’m Only Thinking of Him” which required very skillful live mixing to insure all 3 lovely voices, in very different ranges, and sung in a round, could be enjoyed so immensly.