I really like this musical, especially the recording with Brian Stokes Mitchell ❤ "The Impossible Dream" is of course one of the Great Songs of Musical Theatre Repertoire, but there are so many other great pieces in this musical too. I was so glad Squabbalogic was able to put this one on so I could finally see it live, and that they were able to put it on with such Broadway-royalty as Tony Sheldon.
Originally posted on The AU Review.
The theatre clanks with the sound of cranks and levers as into the prison cell of the late sixteenth century we walk. The lights dim through the smoke and we meet Miguel de Cervantes, author-soldier-actor-tax collector and current political prisoner. In these dungeons we will witness Cervantes grand imaginings, as along with the inmates we delve into this play-within-a-play of heroic knight Don Quixote de La Mancha!
La Mancha is at its heart a play about life, sanity and the real and imagined. For Don Quixote could well be labelled as mad for believing himself a knight, but within his mind it is entirely real. He is the epitome of idealism and who is to say he is wrong? As he so rightly states “we select from life what pleases us”.
Tony Sheldon is very much a perfect Cervantes/Quixote, and his musical A-List status brings this smaller production to a bigger light. His believable struggles of mind and his unshakable ideals are acted to the very core. His style is more in the strength of acting and voice, and occasionally pieces are more spoken than sung, but the approach suits the production and Sheldon’s representation. Here the production is raw and real, rather than loud and polished.
Quixote’s faithful servant is played by the very amusing Ross Chisari, who bounces around the stage serving his master as best he can. The character is interesting, as Sancho Panza has all the qualities to be the brainless sidekick but demonstrates on multiple occasions that perhaps he has it more together than his master. He often explains more beyond the scope of the musical setting- “my eye doesn’t make the world, it just sees it” he rationalizes. Chisari’s voice is an interesting blend of comedy and quality, with traces of real emotion soaring through Panza’s cheeky vocal.
The role of Aldonza is played by Marika Aubrey, and her rough character brings just the right amount of sympathy and discomfort. Her voice is strong and piercing in comparison to Sheldon, and together they demonstrate the parallels of their existences.
Of course a highlight is the well-loved ‘The Impossible Dream’ which builds from Quionxe’s quiet strength to an arousing fair, but it is not overdone. Sheldon, despite temptation to burst into a bellowing ballad, keeps the piece in line with his character and the production. It is again rough and raw, and full of power. It reminds us that at its core, from its lyrics, we are fighting for an “impossible dream”. A sad hope for triumph in the face of hard circumstances.
Another more surprising favourite from the production was ‘Golden Helmet of Mambrino’, which conveys its humour perfectly, but also had an unexpected build with the whole cast joining in a stirring rendition. The piece also marked the appearance of Director Jay James-Moody to the stage, who performed the Barber with such similarity Broadway’s Jamie Torcellini, it was really wonderful to behold.
Squabbalogic have done a fabulous job at bringing to life this prison cell and play. The set design (Simon Greer) is simple enough for the small theatre, and is entirely believable with its props and staging. A gloomy yet magnificent lighting illuminates the ramshackle scene. The cast smoothly jump between inmates and their fantasy characters, whilst at the same time forming part of the onstage instrument ensemble, and they do it admirably. As musical director Paul Geddes says it all- they are a “wonderful troupe of multi-talented, multi-skilled and hard-working performers”.
The production leaves us feeling very much attached to this author’s writings of a knight’s wild imaginings, and more than a little touched by the stout resolution of both. After all, we should “never have the courage to believe in nothing”. Where’s the fun in that?