Quixotic Productions – Man of La Mancha
The Gate, Cardiff
Saturday 10th June 2017
Since Quixotic Productions is a brand new theatre company, I can relate to all the difficulties and exhaustion the profession can take. It’s never easy to put on a show, yet I believe you should also try and do something new with the material you wish to present. Naming the company after their first show, could be a folly, as is proven by the definition of Quixotic: unrealistic and impractical.
This is certainly Spain’s most famous piece of literature and the writer Cervantes, being this celebrated author who created the great Don Quixote should not be underestimated. The musical takes the double bill of stories of Cervantes awaiting trial and his recounting of the story of the infamous knight, to prisoners who also take part in the fun. This send up of chivalry may have lost themes to time, but the humour and passion for an older culture and the duty to be a better person is still evident.
Arriving at The Gate, there was a major sense of disorganisation as there appeared to be no from of house staff, only one person at the box office. People queued in patience outside, but for the show to start as a fraction of the audience was still coming in should not happened.
This is a musical that is understandably rarely performed. A piece that should have an intermission, yet would be clunky if there was one (it exceeded two hours). The only powerhouse song is The Impossible Dream, famous as a big, ballad belter for singers wishing to show off their vocals. Other songs have charm and some wit, but you don’t exactly whistle them as you leave, nor marvel at the brilliant lyricism.
Both director and lead have Spanish roots. Chris Stone may need to make his ensemble work tighter and work with performers on their delivery, but as a debut it is a bold piece to do and should be the start of better things. As Don Quixote, and Cervantes, Philip Sim is super in the role, putting great detail into the words and a real sense of tone in his voice. Impossible Dream was done well and other songs lead by him were also decent. As his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza is a trouser role for Joanne Lindsey. There is humour here and she has some odd little songs to justify his love for his master and you feel the character could get away with more in all the mishaps that happen.
As Aldonza, Annabelle Johnson comes into own after being attacked and goes to the Don to declare her hatred. He mistakes as Dulcinea (basically the maiden to his knight) and this often infuriates her. Johnson gets our hearts when she returns to the Don, after this recovery as he realises his delusions about being a knight. She still keeps the dreams and help bring him back to a brief moment of chivalry.
The performers are evidently from all levels experience. Some had problems with projection, others with staying in tune. Some beautiful voices did come from the supporting cast, as proven in the ensemble’s impressive finale. The can do attitude of the cast was commendable. The band as well, hidden behind the stage walls, we’re spot on in their mock Latin flavours and typical musical style. Owen McCarthy, a youthful and intense conductor maintained this musicality throughout the show.
As a first show of a new theatre company, the trappings of am-dram linger always. This project was crowd funded and has been a labour of love for those involved. The response from the audience was intense and we wonder what this company will wish to stage next. Maybe another musical which is scarcely performed?
Worthy attempt for a musical rarity.
Rating: 3 stars
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