Meet the new Clark Barrios — a fat, sloppy, sidekick who cruises the country doing goofy stuff with a crazy guy.
Wait a minute.
This can’t be the same Clark Barrios who is one of The Villages most versatile and popular singers. He often performs songs by Michael Buble’, Frankie Valli and Frank Sinatra. On stage, Barrios presents a handsome, smooth sophisticated image.
Now Barrios is ready for big career makeover. He will make his major musical theater debut as Sancho Panza in “Man of La Mancha.” It runs March 2 -4 in Savannah Center. The stars are Alex Santoriello as Don Quixote and Dawn DiNome as Aldonza.
They played the same roles here five years ago and helped turn “Man of La Mancha” into a smash, sold-out run in The Villages. Santoriello, a Broadway veteran, earned rave reviews But this will be the first time for Barrios in the role of Sancho, Quixote’s fun-loving, chatter-box, singing sidekick.
It’s definitely a role against type.
“This is such a departure for me; I’m not a big theater guy and I didn’t know much about this musical,” Barrios said. “I’m going to have to fatten myself and be as ugly as possible.”
Santoriello, who is directing and co-producing the play with Joan Knapton, believes in Barrios.
“This role goes against everything that is Clark Barrios’ persona, but he’s up to the challenge,” Santoriello said. “In one way he is like Sancho –Clark has a big heart.”
But it will take more than heart for Barrios’ stage transformation.
“Most of the time, I tell actors when they play a role that 85 percent of the role is them themselves,” Santoriello said. “It’s the 15 percent they have to supply.
“It’s the opposite with Clark as Sancho. “It’s about 15 percent of himself, and he has to supply 85 percent of the character. He needs to stay away from everything that is Clark Barrios.”
A few days ago, Barrios woke up in the middle of the night trying to figure out one of Sancho’s big numbers, “I Like Him.”
“It was three in the morning and I almost rolled out of bed, singing that song in my head,” Barrios said. “In this musical, I’m not singing like I usually sing.”
The big numbers – like “The Impossible Dream”—are reserved for Quixote. Barrios found out at an early rehearsal when he started singing in his familiar style.
“Alex stopped me right away,” Barrios said. “He told me: ‘You need to stay away from everything that is Clark Barrios.”
Sancho plays a critical role in the musical, based on the writings of Cervantes. Both Quixote and Aldonza battle real and imagined villains. There is high drama, fights, assaults and even a windmill battle.
It’s Sancho who, in a way, holds the whole thing together and adds a comedic touch. Think of Lou Costello, and you have a picture of Sancho.
“I think Sancho is a crucial character, especially near the end of the musical,” Barrios said. “Sancho knows Quixote is crazy, but he does whatever he can to help him.
Santoriello once hired Richard Kiley –who starred in the original Broadway production of “La Mancha”—to narrate a play. Santoriello said that the musical remains close to his heart.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful show,” he said. “It has great characters, great strength and great heart. For me, it’s cathartic.”
Barrios shares that sentiment.
“It’s beautiful and I love the story,” he said. “Some people ask me, ‘why are you doing this? When you see the show, you’ll understand. It has so much heart.”
And Barrios has one more message for his doubters: “There’s a new Sancho in town, and it’s me.”