Man of La Mancha (Light Opera Works): Reliable Crowd Pleaser

Man of La Mancha (Light Opera Works): Reliable Crowd Pleaser

Reviewed by Jasleen Jaswal Vines

Light Opera Works continues a season of crowd favorites with the classic Man of La Mancha atEvanston’s Cahn Auditorium. James Harms reprises a role he has played several times before, and he seems to enjoy it quite a bit. It’s fun watching him slip between the roles of Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes, and Alonso Quijana with an ease that belies his shrewd choices. Colette Todd hits the right balance between world-weary and hopeful as Aldonza, bringing the house down with her first number (“It’s All The Same”). Cary Lovett is a solid Sancho Panza, never fading into the role of sidekick alongside Harms. At times the fight choreography seems intentionally slowed down, but Rudy Hogenmiller’s stage direction is tight, important for a book that was probably never intended to run less than 2 ½ hours. Clever lighting and prop work transform a straightforward set – the dungeon in which Miguel Cervantes is left to await sentencing, with its archway of stairs leading aboveground – into each of the locales Don Quixote visits.

To be sure, Light Opera Works knows it audience, which applauds wildly for classic “The Impossible Dream”. Perhaps they appreciate the decision to mike the actors and project all the sound through a center speaker above the stage. The eye follows what the ear hears, making for a jarring effect when sound projects from center stage while action emanates from stage left or right. Luckily, the fantastic full orchestra (led by Nyela Basney) makes up for the dissonance, sounding so polished that it’s easy to forget one isn’t listening to a recording.

Running time: 2 ½ hours, including intermission.

At Cahn Auditorium,600 Emerson Street,Evanston

Select Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays

Through August 26

For a complete list of showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit Light Opera Works’s website.

Photo courtesy Rich Foreman/Light Opera Works.

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