Sunday, March 18, 2012

Genesius’ ‘Man of La Mancha’ is a dream of a production

 By Cheryl Thornburg
If you’re searching for classic Broadway theater, your quest is ended.  Genesius Theatre is presenting the timeless “Man of La Mancha” and it is inspiring as ever. Incredible performances by the lead actors make this a theater experience not to be missed.
Based on Miguel de Cervantes’ novel "Don Quixote,"
the musical uses a play-within-a play format to tell the timeless story of Don Quixote, as well as Cervantes himself.
It opens in a prison where Cervantes and his friend are being held during the Spanish Inquisition. After being threatened by the other prisoners, he offers to put on a play as his defense in the prisoners’ “court.”  Thus he becomes Alonso Quijana, an aging Spanish gentleman who envisions himself as Don Quixote, a knight errant in a search of truth and justice.  His friend becomes his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, who follows him on his quest.
After battling windmills that he believes are giants, despite Sancho’s efforts to convince him otherwise, he goes in search of his lady, someone to “love pure and chaste from afar.”
He finds her in a barmaid named Aldonza, whom he calls Dulcinea, setting in motion life-changing events for many involved in several “worlds.” There is the world of Cervantes in prison, the “real world” of Quijana, and the world seen through Don Quixote’s eyes.
Kevin Cooper is magnificent as the idealistic Don Quixote, delivering the unforgettable “Impossible Dream” with passion and using subtle changes in body language and inflection to convey three different characters. He presents Quixote’s cryptic wisdom such as “Facts are the enemy of truth” with such sincerity that the audience is caught up in his view of life.
It’s hard to tell who is having more fun, Christopher Sperat as Sancho, or the audience watching his antics. Sperat’s strong acting, comedic and vocal skills create a Sancho that is fun to watch as well as a friend that most people would like to have by their side.  His vocal talents shine on “Man of la Mancha,” a duet with Cooper and in “A Little Gossip.”
Meegan Gagnon is fiery and dynamic as the feisty Aldonza who fends off the advances of the boisterous and amorous Muleteers in “It’s All the Same.”  As she becomes confused by Quixote’s attention and devotion, she shows a softer side in “What Does He Want of Me?” and in the final reprise of ”The Impossible Dream.”
There are many great moments with the secondary characters, too numerous to mention individually, but here are some highlights:
Nathan Metz is delightful and hilarious as the barber whose gold-colored barber’s bowl become a magic hat in  “The Golden Helmet of Mambrino.”
The cheeky trio “I’m Only Thinking of Him,’ is catchy with saucy performances by Kathryn Ott, as Antonia, the niece;, and Cathy Miller, as the bousekeeper; with  a pious  Peter Bourey, as the padre.  Bourey’s clear tenor is also perfection in “The Psalm” in the final act.
Randall Gerber turns in some memorable scenes as the innkeeper, particularly in “The Dubbing” where he bestows knighthood on Quixote.
Rounding out the cast are Benjamin Ruth as the Duke and Dr, Sanson Carrasco; Tony Perez, Pat Malarkey, Greg Harwell, Jonathan Browning, Kyle Feltenberger, and Brandon Kegerize  as the Muleteers; Kelly Elizabeth Schmehl, as the inkeeper’s wife and Julia Elberfield and Christina Ferlazzo as gypsies. All of the actors play several characters in this ensemble cast.

The show is directed by LJ Fecho, with Christopher Sperat as musical director. Andrew Cusano is the conductor. Choreography is by Amanda Guiswite and Michael Roman. The combat scenes are choreographed by Benjamin Ruth. Costume design is by Cathy Miller.
The complicated, multi-level set with its movable staging, and drop-down platform is very effective.  I was designed by Kyle Feltenberger and LJ Fecho.
There are no intermissions for this production.
Remaining performances of "Man of La Mancha" are Wednesday and Thursday March 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday March 23, and 24 at 8 p.m
The theatre is located at 10th and Walnut streets in Reading.  Genesius has free parking next to the theater, just off 10th Street and is handicap accessible. 
The show was almost sold out its first weekend, so call for reservations.
For tickets and more information visit the Genesius website at or call the Genesius Reservation Hot-Line at 610-373-9500 for tickets with a credit card or 610-371-8151 for non credit card reservations or for questions or show times.  Tickets are also available at Online at



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