The artistic stars have aligned at the Dayton Playhouse as evidenced in its impressively grounded production of librettist Dale Wasserman, composer Mitch Leigh and lyricist Joe Darion’s 1965 musical Man of La Mancha, astutely directed with clarity and commendable atmospherics by Dawn Roth Smith.
As is typical with any production of La Mancha, set in a dingy dungeon of despair during the Spanish Inquisition, the engaging, inspirational and dark material lives and breathes on the merits of whomever portrays Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote and Aldonza. Thankfully, Tim Rezash and Sarah Viola are firmly at the helm, delivering winning performances layered in deft characterization and vocal assurance. Rezash, instilling noble passion within The Impossible Dream and heartwarming yearning within Dulcinea, wonderfully commands and stimulates the interests of Cervantes’ fellow prisoners, drawing them into the valiant, illusion-driven world of Don Quixote with playful imagination and spirited hope. Viola, an accomplished soprano and a luminous Eliza Doolittle in the Playhouse’s My Fair Lady last season, returns with aplomb, providing gorgeous renditions of It’s All the Same, What Does He Want of Me? and gripping Aldonza.
Elsewhere: Ted Eltzroth offers dopey charm as Cervantes’ faithful sidekick Sancho Panza; William “Kip” Moore supplies fun and flair as the Padre (notably interpreting To Each His Dulcinea with gentle grace); Charles Larkowski is a delightfully gleeful Barber; Brad Bishop, in a refreshing departure, is believably formidable as brutish, violent Pedro; Danny Klingler brings appealing sophistication to the Duke/Carrasco/Knight of Mirrors; lovely sopranos Bryn Corbett (Antonia) and Kate Young (Housekeeper) join Klingler and Moore for a terrifically sung and staged I’m Only Thinking of Him; and Lindsey Cardoza (Maria) and dancer Kiersten Farmer (Moorish Lady) uniquely entertain. The admirable company, attractively costumed by Theresa Kahle, includes Richard Lee Waldeck (Captain), Kevin Rankin (Governore/Innkeeper), John Wysong (Jose/Mirror Guard), Stephen Gogol (Tenorio/Mirror Guard), Jamison Meyer (Paco/Moorish Man), Jamie McQuinn (Juan/Moorish Man), and Michael Plaugher (Anselmo/Mirror Guard).
In addition to Jonathan Sabo’s excellent scenic design and the evocative lighting design of the aforementioned Waldeck, Smith’s first-rate production team includes choreographer Jeffrey M. Payne, sound designer Bob Kovach, properties designer Laura Rea, and music director Sarah Plaugher, leading a fine orchestra.
La Mancha is really staged these days, so I highly recommend taking the time to catch this classic, which has been treated with great respect and reverence at the Playhouse.
Man of La Mancha continues through Feb. 2 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The production is performed in two hours without intermission. Tickets are $18-$20. Call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com.