PITTSFIELD – Barrington Stage Company opens its summer season at the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage (its 10th season in Pittsfield) with a rousing, satisfying production of the musical classic Man of La Mancha. The musical story of Cervantes and Doin Quixote, with a book by Dale Wasserman, score by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, opened on Broadway fifty years ago, after its world premiere at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Musicals. Man of La Mancha won five
Tony Awards that season, including “Best Musical”, enjoyed four Broadway revivals, was adapted into a film, and is best known for its most famous contribution to the American songbook, “The Impossible Dream”.
In context, “The Impossible Dream” is one of several wonderful songs by Leigh and Darion, and in the Barrington Stage production, its rendering by Jeff McCarthy as Cervantes, is hauntingly moving, and a first class showstopper. McCarthy’s performance is one of the most exciting musical theatre performances I’ve seen in a long time.
Director Julianne Boyd, music director Darren R. Cohen, choreographer Greg Graham, and fight choroegrapher Ryan Winkles have brought the best of the Dale Wasserman script to the stage, and the score, laced with gems like “Man of La Mancha”, “Dulcinea” and “I’m Only Thinking of Him”, has aged gracefully. Darren R. Cohen’s nine musicians in the pit deserve special mention.
Barrington Stage knows how to put a musical together, as seen in last season’s Broadway hit On The Town. All the production elements are superb, from James Kronzer’s powerful prison set, transformed into various settings by Olivera Gajic’s clever costumes and Chris Lee’s evocative lighting. Ed Chapman’s sound design is impeccable–balancing a great orchestra and singers.
The cast is terrific, especially McCarthy. Felicia Boswell, from Broadway’s Motown, brings a defiant edge to Aldonza; Tom Alan Robbins brings humor to the role of Cervantes’ sidekick, the servant Sancho. I really enjoyed seeing Sean MacLaughlin (who played Juan Peron in the Evita tour that played The Bushnell last fall) as Dr. Carrasco; Meg Bussert (an inegnue in Broadway revivals of The Music Man, Brigadoon, and Camelot in the 1980s) as the mature Housekeeper; Todd Horman as the Padre, and Waldemar Quinones-Villaneuva from last month’s Zorba at City Center Encores as a lead dancer.
Man of La Mancha, which runs less than two hours without intermission, plays Pittsfield through July 11.
For those who haven’t been to Pittsfield recently, make note that the streets and sidewalks look brighter, the restaurant scene is buzzing, and there’s a sense of solid revival. Chalk up a good amount of this renaissance to the Barrington Stage Company and the Berkshire Theatre Group, two companies that are presenting plays, musicals, comedy, cabaret, club acts, and a range of productions that bring people into town. Theatre can entertain, educate, enlighten, and transform, and Pittsfield’s looking great.
Barrington Stage Company presents Man of La Mancha. Book by Dale Wasserman. Music by Mitch Leigh. Lyrics by Joe Darion. Directed by Julianne Boyd. Music Direction by Darren R. Cohen. Choreography by Greg Graham. Scenic design by James Kronzer. Costume design by Olivera Gajic. Lighting design by Chris Lee. Sound design by Ed Chapman. Cast: Jeff McCarthy (Cervantes/Don Quixote); Felicia Boswell (Aldonza); Rom Alan Robbins (Sancho Panza). Through July 11. Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA. 413-236-8888 or www.barringtonstageco.org
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio.