Ultimately, “Man of La Mancha” is a musical about transformation.
That quality defined Alex Santoriello’s thoroughly riveting and consummate performance Thursday in Savannah Center. The musical runs through Saturday, and features Dawn DiNome as Aldonza and Clark Barrios as Sancho.
All dreams are possible when the metamorphosis of Santoriello into Don Quixote is complete. On stage, he reaches a point where acting reveals more than the essence of the character –but the actor himself.
Santoriello not only embraces this demanding role, he thrives on such personal revelation, even if he seems a little crazy.
It starts when the mad knight steps on stage with clanky, ill-fitting armor and oversized lance.
From the opening moments of Cervantes heading to prison to the inspirational final scene where Cervantes’ creation Don Quixote marches upstairs to face the Inquisition – this is a totally consuming role – for the actor and the audience.
Seven years ago, a nervous Alex Santoriello auditioned for “Man of La Mancha” shortly after moving to The Villages.
“I haven’t auditioned in years,” Santoriello, a veteran of Broadway stages and movies, said that day. Later that afternoon, he won the part and the hearts of everyone in attendance when he sang “The Impossible Dream.”
He did the same thing on Thursday afternoon’s opening performance. Santoriello has worked with the late Richard Kiley – who originated the role on Broadway. Like Kiley, Santoriello discovered a way to straddle the fault lines of idealism and sanity, and make it real.
Santoriello turned such “Man of La Mancha” staples as “Dulcinea,” “Golden Helmet of Mambrino” and “The Impossible Dream” into memorable, personal statements.
And though Quixote lives in a world of immorality, war and deception –he never loses his idealism — although he is a little crazy.
Santoriello had plenty of help in a splendid cast. DiNome displayed powerful vocal range in the role of Aldonza. Near the end, she sings “Dulcinea,” in an operatic way that touches the heart. At the end the transformation of the kitchen slut to a lady is complete, and DiNome’s performance and vocals made it believable.
The big surprise was the performance of Barrios in the critical role of Sancho. He had bushy black hair and a pillow for a stomach, and looked something like a refugee from a Grateful Dead concert.
But Barrios provided welcome comic relief and his singing was a joy to hear. Especially when he detailed his affection for Quixote with “I Like Him.”
Lee Mueller as the governor/innkeeper was nasty and nice. He stood out on “The Dubbing,” turning Quixote into a knight.
Debbie Perina as the barber tried to save her wash basin but it still turned into a golden helmet. Bill McGaughey as Padre was soft and reverent on “To Each His Dulcinea,” and really spiritual on “The Psalm,” near the end.
Ross Wilkinson was easy to root against as the wicked realist, Dr. Carrasco, while Mary Jo Vitale as Antonia, played the beloved niece looking out for her mad uncle—and also an inheritance.
Put them all together with Santoriello, and it was an inspirational local performance.
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.