NORMAN — A stirring version of “Man of La Mancha” swept spectators along — almost enough not to mind the lack of an intermission — in a performance of the musical at the Sooner Theatre. The production also made us think about the role of fantasy in dealing with grim realities of everyday life.
Mateja Govich was brilliant in both his roles as author Cervantes, and his most famous creation, Don Quixote, whose life he re-enacts as part of a “trial” by his fellow prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition.
Govich, who returned to his hometown of Norman after eight years in New York City, seemed to nearly become a different person when he put on the beard, wig and makeshift armor of Quixote.
Gesturing broadly but forlornly, and looking just disoriented enough as Quixote, and clear-eyed and world-weary as Cervantes, Govich brought a strong, sure voice to the former part.
Indeed, throughout the evening, Govich turned “The Impossible Dream,” and especially the musical's frequently reprised title song, into powerful anthems of idealism in the face of a recalcitrant world.
Beth Adele not only got across the feisty “attitude” of the maid and prostitute at the inn-“castle,” but overcame early vocal strain to sing the part of Aldonza-Dulcinea more and more touchingly and effectively.
Particularly moving were Adele's final reprise of “Dulcinea,” and an earlier scene in which she demanded, without success, that Don Quixote see her, for once, as the fallen woman she actually was.
Making the most of a high-pitched voice, Brett Uram was good in such songs as “The Missive” and “A Little Gossip,” and irresistible in “I Really Like Him,” as Don Quixote's servant and squire, Sancho Panza.
Good, too, were Anna LeFlore as the niece, and Catherine Etter as the housekeeper, threatened by Quixote's illusions, but insisting that “I'm Only Thinking of Him” in a catchy comic number. Also joining them in this ironic segment was Sam Briggs, who had a good voice and good intentions as the Padre, and Mitchell Reid, as the niece's intellectually pretentious fiance, Dr. Carrasco.
Reid had some more memorable moments when he attempted to “cure” Don Quixote as another “knight,” wearing bright reflecting armor.
More excellent support came from Michael Hardwick in a dual role as the “governor” of the prisoners conducting the trial, and as the innkeeper, dubbing Quixote an official knight in robust, humorous fashion.
Connor Marshall was delightful as a barber whose shaving basin-hat is mistaken for a magic helmet, and Tracy Stewart was appropriately heavy-handed and threatening as the head muleteer.
Written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the production lasted a little over two hours, with no intermission, but often made time seem to fly for the audience.
Directed by Chad Anderson, with a 14-member live pit band under the musical direction of Les Downs, it is highly recommended in its remaining performances.
— John Brandenburg