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Theater Review: ‘Man of La Mancha’ sells out opening night

Opening Night for Pendragon Theatre’s “Man of La Mantra” was greeted with a sold-out performance that triumphed with a standing ovation. It is no wonder. Pendragon Theatre’s Artistic Director Karen Lordi-Kirkham has gathered a gold mine of talent for Pendragon’s most recent hit, “Man of La Mancha.” This charming play within a play, written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, uses Miquel De Cervantes’s classic novel “Don Quixote” as a platform to switch between a grim prison setting during the Spanish Inquisition to the imaginings of Don Quixote’s world where chivalry is not dead.

Tijana Bjelajac’s scenic design’s beautiful simplicity allows the audience to easily transition from the prison to the wanderings of Don Quixote (George Cordes) and his sidekick Sancho (Sam Balzac). Bonnie Brewer’s lighting was whimsical, transforming a dank prison into Quixote’s imagination.

Professional opera singer George Cordes (last seen in a gripping performance in the title role of Pendragon’s “Sweeney Todd) returns with great aplomb to create a sympathetic Miquel De Cervantes brought to prison with his manservant (Sam Balzac) where he weaves stories as Don Quixote to impress the inmates which whisk them to a world of dreams and hope, away from fear and helplessness.

Balzac’s precise comedic touches lighten the tone and bring sensitivity to the madness (or genius) of Cordes’ Quixote. The live orchestra was flawlessly directed by Elizabeth Cordes, which added a depth to this already lofty production.

I came in with high expectations after seeing Cordes perform on Pendragon’s stage as well as at his own High Peaks Opera. He never disappoints. His voice is always a delight though his strength can sometimes highlight others’ weaknesses. In “Man of La Mancha” Lordi-Kirkham, with the musical direction of Elizabeth Cordes, balances Cordes with a strong ensemble cast, allowing him to draw out the very best from each performer.

I truly enjoyed the standout performances from the ensemble along with Jason Brill’s Padre, Cassidy Dermott’s Antonia and Matt Sorenson’s Dr. Carrasco. The flawless artistry had the cast moving seamlessly between these small flashes of prison scenes to the wanderings of Quixote’s eccentric charm.

I was most surprised by the pitch-perfect voice of Donna Moschek’s Aldonza, the inmate that Don Quixote confuses with a noble lady. Though I’ve had the pleasure of watching Moschek perform in productions before, I’ve never been fortunate enough to hear her sing. From the low notes to the high, it was a joy to listen to Moschek and Cordes carry out this complex score.

This stellar performance of “Man of La Mancha” has only seven performances left. Don’t wait to get tickets for this quest of beauty, hope and most of all, dreams.