Dream lives on in Villages’ production of ‘Man of La Mancha’

“Man of La Mancha” is a musical that dances on the fault lines of sanity and madness; as well as fantasy and reality. This play examines the cost of moral transformation and, ultimately, the meaning of life and death.
It’s challenging theater, and has been presented a multitude of times since the late Richard Kiley starred in the original Broadway production nearly five decades ago.

Alex Santoriello’s majestic performance as Cervantes/Don Quixote on Wednesday in the Savannah Center adds luster to “La Mancha’s” theatrical legacy. The musical, produced by Joan Knapton’s KC Productions, runs through Saturday. Watch an exclusive preview of the show here:

“Man of La Mancha” also stars Dawn DiNome, a youthful blossoming talent, who turns the “whore” Aldonza into a noble lady called Dulcinea. Sam Rosalsky nearly steals the show with his impish, zany and irresistible performance as Sancho Panza, Quixote’s comic sidekick.
Santoriello, who also directed the production, has played major roles on Broadway. He moved to The Villages a couple of years ago and this is his first starring role here.
It won’t be his last.

"Man of La Mancha" made its debut Wednesday night at Savannah Center.
“Man of La Mancha” made its debut Wednesday night at Savannah Center.

Mia Reeves left Tim Casey and Billie Thatcher sing "I'm Only Thinking of Him."
Mia Reeves, left, Tim Casey and Billie Thatcher sing “I’m Only Thinking of Him.”

Watching Santoriello, is a rare opportunity to see a true Broadway professional on the Savannah Center stage. His movements, expressions, conversational voice and singing vocals are a wonder to behold.
Santoriello has captured Quixote’s crazy character to near perfection. And he also leaves you wondering: is Quixote insane or has the world gone mad?
Cervantes was asking that question back in the 1600s and today we are still searching for answers.
Still, when Santoriello sings “The Impossible Dream,” near the end of the first act, he displays a wounded resolve to try and make a better world. The song is a standard, but Santoriello makes it fresh with a kind of noble pathos that transcends the stage. I kept watching his eyes during the song, and Santoriello’s Quixote seemed to be gazing into his soul.
This production features far more than Santoriello.
For DiNome, it’s a coming of age role. She breathes life, energy and bitterness into Aldonza. As the play progresses DiNome slowly embraces Quixote’s ideals.
It’s a demanding role. She gets roughed up by Muleteers, assaulted and kicked around as she has been all her life. But Quixote believes in her, and Aldonza eventually believes in herself.

Dawn DiNome as Aldonza listens to Sancho Panza played by Sam Rosalsky.
Dawn DiNome as Aldonza listens to Sancho Panza played by Sam Rosalsky.

Near the end, when DiNome sings “Dulcinea,” it’s one of those theatrical moments that makes you forget about the lights, the stage and the make-up. DiNome makes Aldonza’s Dulcinea seem real.
The entire cast showed a remarkable consistency. Dave Olsen was authoritative as the innkeeper/governor. Tim Casey brought some humanity to the Padre and sang a tender “To Each His Dulcinea.”  Mia Reeves and Billie Thatcher were fine as Quixote’s self-centered daughter and housekeeper. They combined with Casey for the comical, “I’m Only Thinking of Him.”
David Thoreson showed a combative side as Dr. Carrasco, the man who cruelly tries to shake Quixote out of his insanity. Ralph Dowell looked sufficiently bewildered as the barber, when Quixote turned his shaving basin into a golden helmet for a knight.
Bob Petrucelli, Jim Kitzler and Howard Kirschenbaum made the Muleteers into a nasty gang. And let’s not forget Vanita Turner and Lee Beery who showed plenty of kick as dancing horses.
“The Impossible Dream” is the song everyone remembers from this musical.
Whenever I hear “The Impossible Dream,” I always think of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  Like Quixote, King had a dream about a just world but paid the ultimate price to deal with the violent and divisive realities of his time.
But his dream lives on.

 So does “Man of La Mancha.”

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