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UW Opera: "Man of La Mancha"

Dale Wasserman: Man of La Mancha

Don Quixote: J. Hunter Overton
Sancho Perez: Ric Segovia
Aldonza, Dulcinea: Katherine Holsinger
Padre: Jon Dimond
Pedro: Trent Mendez
Duke: Andrew Binder
Innkeeper: Ryan Quinn
Innkeeper's Wife: Heidi Armbruster
Blake Walter, conductor


The dream seemed entirely possible: Man of La Mancha, staged by the University Theatre and University Opera, provided two hours of solid, high-quality entertainment. The work is an excellent vehicle for singers and actors young and not so young, and tells Cervantes' story of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the narrative framework of a stone prison -- a complex and impressive setting of operatic proportions by Charles J. Trieloff, crammed onto the Union's small stage -- in which with other prisoners of the Inquisition, Quixote and Sancho defend love, honor and virtue.

The show had very high production values, I thought. Norma Saldivar's direction excelled by being largely invisible: the actors were the characters, the pace never flagged, and it all just worked. With similar efficiency Blake Walter conducted the small pit orchestra seamlessly. Sound balances were good throughout. Combined with the set, visual qualities were grounded in first-rate costumes by Hyewon Park and subtle lighting by Linda Essig.

Though none of the singing was absolutely top-notch, the principals, Quixote (J.Hunter Overton), Dulcinea (Katherine Holsinger), Sancho (Ric Segovia) and Padre (Jon Dimond) did a fine job with the score's delightful lyrical demands. The main hit songs, "Dulcinea" and "The Impossible Dream" and their reprises came off quite well.

The show was sustained more by good acting than by good singing, and of the actors Segovia was far and away the standout performer. It's a tossup whether Quixote or Sancho is the greater role, but Segovia made the latter a real human being, combining just the right mixture of pratfall and high camp with genuine warmth and affection. His stage movement and expressions were completely flawless.

Overton also did very well in a very tough part. At first I was put off a little by Holsinger's Aldonza/Dulcinea, which seemed forced and strident. But about halfway through, she found the right balance of defiance and tragedy. Of smaller parts, Dimond as the Padre was touching, and Trent Mendez was dashingly hateful as Aldonza's tormenter. Andrew Binder was unctious as the Duke, but tender as the Knight of Mirrors (on stilts!) who cures Quixote's madness. Ryan Quinn made the Innkeeper a likable, down-to-earth person and Heidi Armbruster made the scolding innkeeper's wife fun to watch.

There are three more performances, April 22, 23 and 24, at 7:30 p.m.

Isthmus, April, 1999
Copyright 1999 Jess Anderson

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