Friday, October 20, 2017

reviews - MAN OF LA MANCHA - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Geoff Belliston, Jessica Medoff, James Rio, and Andy Meyers
photo by Scott Samplin
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 11th.

".Based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes, and incorporating Cervantes himself into the story, the classic musical Man of La Mancha is receiving a solid production from Arizona Broadway Theatre. ...features a talented cast led by Phoenix favorite James Rio as Cervantes and rich creative elements which are exceptional. Dale Wasserman's touching, moving, and slightly comical book incorporates Cervantes as the main character who is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition. While he is waiting to be tried, he must defend his prized manuscript in a mock trial conducted by his fellow prisoners, which takes place in the dungeon where they are all being held. Cervantes woos the inmates by telling the story of Don Quixote, the aging "mad" knight who travels with his squire Sancho and believes he has found the woman of his dreams, Dulcinea, in the kitchen wench Aldonza....features a lush, melodic score...which sounds excellent at ABT under James May's taut music direction...Wasserman's book, which is a bit convoluted,... features a touching message of hope and understanding..Director Joseph Martinez sticks fairly close to the style of many other productions of this show I've seen...and his cast throw themselves into the performance of these iconic, beloved characters. James Rio's Cervantes is full of warmth, care and understanding for his fellow inmates. ....Jessica Medoff is very good as Aldonza. She creates a woman who is full of passion and fire. ...ABT favorite Andy Meyers is charming and full of life as the fun-loving devoted servant who will do anything for Cervantes. ...Martinez's direction is fluid and he evokes good performances from his large cast and also ensures the play within the play aspect is never lost....The excellent set design by Kara Thomson features stone turrets and an elevated staircase...Lottie Dixon's costumes...feature multiple fabrics and styles and rich details. William Kirkham's lighting is stunning ...Arizona Broadway Theatre continues to present beautiful productions of classic musicals. Their Man of La Mancha features a talented cast and effective direction and creative elements. While the musical is a slightly funny adventure tale, it also has at its core a deep message about hope and compassion. It may be fifty years old, and Cervantes' novel was written five hundred years ago, but those simple messages are ones that still resonate today and come through beautifully in ABT's lovely production. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...The wonderful thing about Man of La Mancha is that it truly is piece of great theatre and incorporates all the elements that make imaginative theatre great. ...After the opening sound of a terrific scene-setting trumpet fanfare, courtesy of John Eth in conductor James May’s equally terrific seven-piece orchestra, the Arizona Broadway Theatre’s plush red curtain rises upon scenic designer Kara Thomson’s handsome looking set, the kind so full of detail that once revealed you can’t help but want to explore all of its nooks and crannies....you realize that what you’re about to see is a re-designed version of the musical, one that doesn’t require so much of your imagination, your willing suspension of disbelief, or too many lighting changes to transport you to other locations, the set does all the work for you. As directed by Joseph Martinez, when James Rio’s Cervantes takes charge and casts his characters from the available prisoners, he explains what is needed of them, but he’s really talking directly to us, breaking that fourth wall, relating events to the ABT audience when he should be directing everything to the cast...Perhaps the difference to this particular approach will be lost on those new to the production, but like the set that doesn’t fully reflect the show’s original intention, neither does talking to the audience reflect Dale Wasserman’s original writing.....Rio nicely captures that elderly Don Quixote look ... His singing voice serves the songs well....but his speaking voice, though strong with clarity, lacks the emotional energy the part often requires... Jessica Medoff...makes a handsome Escalante/Aldonza. Her fiery delivery when performing in the play-within-the play captures exactly what Aldonza’s character is..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...Today, in times that strain our idealism, MAN OF LA MANCHA offers a welcome emotional uplift ...In Arizona Broadway Theatre's spirited production of the musical, James Rio is the force providing that uplift, fulfilling Wasserman's vision...Rio embodies the duality that defines Cervantes-Don Quixote....Rio, with a rich baritone voice, is soulful, delivering a Cervantes that is erudite and pragmatic and a Quixote that is starry-eyed, vulnerable, and determined to save the day ~ at whatever cost....With his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza (Andy Meyers playing the perfect foil), Quixote sallies forth into danger and fateful romance (visualizing the salty and sassy barmaid Aldonza as the saintly Dulcinea (Jessica Medoff). Kara Thomson's grand scale recreation of a foreboding dungeon demands an equally robust production. While the pacing of the show lags at times and the choreography falters, the overall effect of Joseph Martinez's direction is a stirring reminder of what may be possible when we dare to reach for the stars on behalf of a heavenly cause..." Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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