Huntington Now Review

‘The Impossible Dream’ a Beautiful Reality at Engeman Theater

September 28, 2018
By Mary Beth Casper

“The Impossible Dream” is back at the John W. Engeman Theater.  For the second time in ten years, the Northport playhouse is presenting “Man of La Mancha.”   Once again, it’s directed by Peter Flynn.

Note to all skeptics planning on catching a performance of this beloved classic:  Please check your cynicism at the door.

If you don’t,  you’ve been forewarned:  You can kiss your negativity  goodbye (at least for the duration of the show ), thanks to the beautiful performances of a well-directed cast, as well as the inspirational script and songs that may move  you closer to fighting for your own impossible dreams, ”No matter how hopeless.  No matter how far.”

This production is that good.

“Man of La Mancha, originally opened on Broadway in 1965 and was the recipient of five Tony Awards. Since then it has continued to dazzle theater-goers, both nationally and abroad.  Written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the script was adapted for the stage from the non-musical teleplay, “I Don Quixote, which was inspired by the writings of Miguel de Cervantes.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, “Man of La Mancha,” is a play within a play.  It focuses upon Cervantes and his man servant, Sancho, having just been arrested and placed in a dungeon along-side murderers and thieves, as they wait their appearance before the Spanish Inquisition.  Their crime?  Foreclosing on a local Monastery.

Their fellow prisoners taunt Cervantes when they learn he is a writer. Once they discover his treasured manuscript, a play about Don Quixote, they take it from him.  In order to get it back, he challenges the prisoners to take on the roles and act the story out with him.

Richard Todd Adams mesmerized the audience in his roles as Cervantes and Don Quixote, the madman whose goal is to be knighted and return the age of chivalry to late 16th Century Spain.  Of course, he is considered “insane” for his beliefs, but the opinions of others don’t faze Quixote (the Man of La Mancha) one bit.  He blithely goes about his goals:  Fighting windmills and aiding damsels in distress.

Mr. Adams is charmingly believable in both roles and his magnificent baritone voice rose magnificently to the heavens during each and every song he sang.

It is the scullery maid and lady of the night, Aldonza, whom Quixote believes to be his special Lady, who may be his biggest challenge, though.   He changes her name to Dulcinea (which means sweetness) and begins the work of convincing her how special she is.  Not an easy task.  This Dulcinea has led a life of such hardship that try as he does, it’s nearly impossible to convince her of her beauty and self-worth.

This reviewer saw a production in which understudy Morgan Anita Wood filled in as Dulcinea, for the ailing Janet Dacal, who reportedly is coming back to the role.  Understandably, Ms. Wood seemed nervous at the beginning of the performance.  Quite frankly, she did not step up to the task, either acting-wise, or vocally.  However, shortly into her performance, she relaxed and embraced the role with pure gusto.  She deserves praise for her acting and singing ability.  Her rendition of “What Does He Want of Me?”– in which she questions what Quixote could possibly see in her, was both touching and beautiful.   Her angry, heartbreaking rendition of “Aldonza,” was also beautifully sung and was relayed with heart-wrenching emotion.

The highest point of the evening was Mr. Adam’s resounding rendition of “The Impossible Dream” at the end of Act One.  He had the audience in the palm of his capable hands.  And, during ensuing reprisals of that song in Act Two, it was clear how much the audience appreciated his performance, as well as the presentations of the others who joined him in song.

The ensemble cast moved from dungeon prisoners to participants in Cervantes’ play effortlessly.  One of the stand-outs of the evening was Garfield Hammonds (Padre), whose stage presence and charm-filled performance deserves a special nod.

Besides superb acting and singing by the entire cast, this production was well-served by the amazing scenic design of Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, as well as the effective lighting design of Alan C. Edwards and the  costuming of Kurt Alger.

“Man of La Mancha” runs through Oct.28.

 

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Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: A dream-worthy ‘Man of La Mancha’ opens at the Engeman

The cast of ‘Man of La Mancha’

September 23, 2018
By Rita J. Egan

The cast and crew of John W. Engeman Theater’s “Man of La Mancha” have set off on a quest resulting in a production worthy of Broadway. The musical opened at the theater Sept. 13, and on the night of the press opening, Sept. 15, theatergoers filled the venue looking forward to the reincarnation of the perennial favorite.

“Man of La Mancha” debuted off-Broadway in 1965 and went on to win five Tony Awards. Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the Northport version is masterfully directed by Peter Flynn.

Taking its cue from literature, the musical takes the story of “Don Quixote” written by Miguel de Cervantes and sets it to music. In the play, which takes place during the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 16th century, Cervantes is in prison waiting for his trial. Upon his arrival, his fellow prisoners try to take his belongings, including the manuscript of the story he is writing.

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza) in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’

Following the tradition of prisoners putting newcomers on trial, Cervantes is charged with being an idealist, and a mock trial begins. The writer, in an attempt to defend himself, has his fellow prisoners play the characters in “Don Quixote.” Through their re-creations, audience members meet Alonso Quijano, the aging man who believes he’s a knight-errant and calls himself Don Quixote. Quijano and his squire Sancho Panza embark on a journey where they meet an array of characters including Aldonza the bitter serving woman and prostitute at an inn who Quixote envisions as a virtuous lady.

Michael Bottari and Ronald Case have gone above and beyond with the detailed set design of a dungeon on the Engeman stage, and Kurt Alger has done an excellent job with costumes, especially with the Knight of Mirrors’ gear in the second act. Choreographed by Devanand Janki, the musical contains high-energy dance numbers that complement the stellar production. The actors and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Julianne Merrill, are in top form during every number.

Richard Todd Adams as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote is charismatic as the main character who takes his fellow prisoners on a fictional journey. His deep, rich vocals are perfect on every song. When he sings “Dulcinea,” upon meeting Aldonza and sees her as a pure, good woman, his voice has the potential to make many swoon. He also stops the show with his delivery of “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal plays Aldonza with the right amount of sullenness but yet perfectly portrays the character’s softening later in the musical. Her singing, especially her solos, “What Does He Want of Me?” and “Aldonza” are filled with power and emotion.

Carlos Lopez is a delightful and charming Sancho Panza and lends a good amount of comedic relief including during his solos “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip.”

Janet Dacal (Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza)

All of the ensemble members do a fantastic job, and each has time to shine in the spotlight. Morgan Anita Wood, Garfield Hammonds and Phyllis March are wonderful during “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” Deven Kolluri does a great job as the cynical Duke and Dr. Carrasco. In the prison scenes where he plays Duke, he portrays the character’s disdain for Cervantes perfectly. His vocals are strong when he joins Wood, Hammonds and March on “We’re Only Thinking of Him.”

Joshua Wayne Oxyer, Cody Mowrey, Juan Luis Espinal, Enrique Cruz DeJesus and Diego Gonzalez as the Muleteers sound fantastic together on the number “Little Bird, Little Bird.” Bruce Winant easily goes back and forth from the tough governor to the kind innkeeper, and Mowrey garners some laughs as the barber who tries to understand Quixote’s delusions.

The story of “Don Quixote” and “Man of La Mancha” is more than a tale of a man gone mad battling a windmill he thinks is a giant. It’s about seeing the good in people and the world even when strife seems to prevail. Cervantes and Don Quixote look to escape the realities of life by searching for the good in all things and people, and their attitudes are contagious. It’s obvious the cast gets this message as they seamlessly go from conveying doubtfulness over their new dungeon mate to showing hope in the impossible dream by the end. For theater lovers on a quest for a musical that has it all, the Engeman’s “Man of La Mancha” is a dream.

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The Village Tattler Review

A Dream of A Musical at Engeman Theater in Northport

Richard Todd Adams as Don Quixote and Carlos Lopez as Sancho Panza in Engeman’s Man of La Mancha. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

September 23, 2018
By Claudia Wheeler

This impossibly entertaining musical, from the first strum of the guitar to the moving finale, brings the classic Cervantes masterpiece set in 16th century Spain to life on the stage. Man of La Mancha will run through October 28, 2018, at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater. It is a dream of a musical complete with moving songs such as “The Impossible Dream,” and “Dulcinea,” and it will especially please lovers of history and romance. Considered one of the world’s most popular musicals, Engeman’s Man of La Mancha exceeds its aim to entertain through the telling of the adventures of a delusional Spanish Knight who is on a quest to restore chivalry to the world and claim his lady love Dulcinea.

Engeman’s version is emotionally stirring, particularly led by such a talented group of actors. Richard Todd Adams is mesmerizing as Don Quixote (Engeman Theater: Jekyll & Hyde (2007); Broadway: The Woman in White, The Pirate Queen, CATS; National Tours: Les Miserables – Jean Valjean, Javert, The Phantom of the Opera – The Phantom, Raoul). His leading lady Janet Dacal is perfectly cast as Aldonza. She is beyond enthralling with a voice that is truly beautiful as well as powerful. Dacal’s credits include: Broadway, In the Heights – Nina, Carla; Wonderland – Alice; Regional: The Sting at Paper Mill Playhouse. The fabulous sidekick, Sancho Panza, is brilliantly acted by Carlos Lopez who hits the comedic lines perfectly and is a familiar face from many TV and film appearances in “The Sopranos,” “Law and Order,” “Guiding Light,” “All Fired Up,” “What Would You Do?” “Brooklyn Sonnet,” “Stepford Wives,” “Death Wishes,” and “Late Phases.” Lopez also appeared as the Barber on Broadway’s Man of La Mancha. His other Broadway credits include: Grease – Sonny, Annie Get Your Gun – Tommy Keeler, Wonderful Town – Speedy, A Chorus Line – Mike and Paul.

Man of La Mancha is produced by RICHARD DOLCE the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director and directed by PETER FLYNN (Engeman Theater: Man of La Mancha (2008); NY Theater: Curvy Widow at Westside Arts Theatre, Born Yesterday at Maltz-Jupiter Theatre; Regional: Ragtime and 1776 at Ford’s Theatre, Chess with Josh Groban & Julia Murney, Andrea Martin: Final Days Everything Must Go). The choreographer is DEVANAND JANKI (Engeman Theater: Man of La Mancha (2008); Off-Broadway: Zanna, Don’t!, Junie B. Jones, Henry and Mudge, The Yellow Brick Road, Skippyjon Jones, This One Girl’s Story, Cupid and Psyche, Love & Real Estate, Romantic Poetry; Lincoln Center: Amahl and the Night Visitors, Babes in Toyland). The Musical Director is JULIANNE B. MERRILL (NY Theater: A Man of No Importance, Parade; Regional: Smokey Joe’s Café, Matilda; International: Into the Woods).

The cast of Man of La Mancha at Northport’s Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The cast also includes: ENRIQUE CRUZ DEJESUS, JUAN LUIS ESPINAL, DIEGO GONZALEZ, GARFIELD HAMMONDS, DEVEN KOLLURI, STEVEN LIBERTO, PHYLLIS L. MARCH, NORA MOUTRANE, CODY MOWREY, JOSHUA WAYNE OXYER, NANDITA SHENOY, BRUCE WINANT, and MORGAN ANITA WOOD.

 

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Broadway World Review

MAN OF LA MANCHA at the John W. Engeman Theatre lead by Janet Dacal, Richard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez

September 19, 2018
By Melissa Giordano

BWW Review: MAN OF LA MANCHA at the John W. Engeman Theatre lead by Janet Dacal, Richard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez

Northport’s gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a stellar showing of theatre staple Man Of La Mancha, the second show of their dazzling 12th Season. This incarnation of the Tony winner, running through October 28th, is excellently directed by Peter Flynn and boasts an extraordinary cast. Long Island is certainly lucky to have this production lead by Broadway vets Janet DacalRichard Todd Adams, and Carlos Lopez.

The tale follows Cervantes as he puts on “plays” – starring as crazy, old knight Don Quixote – as he and fellow prisoners await their hearings with the Spanish Inquisition. Fellow literary lovers will recognize the musical’s loose adaptation from Dale Wasserman‘s 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote of which was inspired by Miguel de Cervantesand his 17th-century novel Don Quixote. And you will also see that it is a very busy show, so it is best to stay as focused as possible as they flip back and forth between reality and fantasy (the “play”).

Mr. Adams makes a wonderful Cervantes/Don Quixote. The complexity and Mr. Adams‘ delivery of role really draws the audience in. Ms. Dacal masterfully portrays Aldonza (or Dulcinea in the fantasy). Indeed an audience favorite is her emotional performance of “What Does He Want Of Me” in act one and in the reprise of “Dulcinea” in act two. Mr. Lopez is also a standout as Sancho, Cervantes trusty assistant (and Squire in the “play” sequences), providing many “laugh out loud” moments. Overall, the large company is truly brilliant with pretty much everyone taking on multiple roles between the dungeon scenes and the “play”.

On Mr. Flynn’s creative team, Michael Bottari & Ronald Case design the superb set for the Long Island venue. An elevated, large stair case majestically falls to the prisoners below with the rest of the gloomy stage filled with a cinder block look. This is chillingly enhanced with Kurt Alger‘s clever costumes and Don Hanna’s sound design. Special kudos also to Alan C. Edwards for the top-notch lighting design especially for the “Knight of the Mirrors” number featuring the most amazing Knight costume. And, of course, it is always a treat to see a live orchestra. Headed up by Julianne B. Merrill, the band is flawless as they perform the iconic score.

And so, Man Of La Mancha is certainly another hit for Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre. An outstanding cast and the stunning John W. Engeman Theatre make for a magnificent night of theatre.

 

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Newsday Review

‘Man of La Mancha’ review: An impossible dream come true

Richard Todd Adams, left, is Don Quixote and Carlos Lopez is Sancho Panza in “Man of La Mancha” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

 

“Man of La Mancha” is one of those musicals you’d think audiences would be sick of seeing. Not so, says Richard Dolce, producing artistic director of the John W. Engeman Theater. In fact, he says the 1966 Tony-winning best musical is one of the shows they’re most frequently asked to bring back.

So 10 years after its first run at the Northport theater, the musical inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ classic 17th century novel “Don Quixote” is getting a return engagement, with a beautifully crafted, emotional production celebrating the enduring story of an idealist who holds fast to his dreams.

If you’ve forgotten the story, here’s a quick brush up: Awaiting trial before the Spanish Inquisition, Cervantes and his manservant, charged with foreclosing on a monastery, are thrown into a dungeon with an unsavory bunch of thieves and murderers. Threatened, Cervantes devises a fantasy about a mad knight in search of lost chivalry, distracting his fellow prisoners by awarding them roles in his bit of make believe.

Directed by Peter Flynn, who also helmed Engeman’s 2008 production, the show rests — as it always does — on the actor playing Cervantes, and Richard Todd Adams delivers. He portrays the madman with just enough duplicity to let you know he’s making it all up. And with his rich baritone, he captures the soul of the familiar score — and not just in the covered-by-everyone-under-the-sun hit “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal is gripping as Aldonza, the wild, lusty wench who in Quixote’s vision is a fine lady he calls Dulcinea (though in early scenes, her hair and makeup could use a little roughing up). Other fine performances come from Carlos Lopez as the devoted servant who becomes Sancho Panza, the squire always ready with a sarcastic quip; Bruce Winant, playing the innkeeper in the fantasy with sardonic wit, and Morgan Anita Wood and Phyllis L. March, as Quixote’s niece and housekeeper, respectively, who give the tongue-in-cheek “I’m Only Thinking of Him” a wry edge.

This is a striking production, with the grim stone dungeon well rendered by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case — the actors dragging themselves in and out of the orchestra pit is an interesting touch. Adding to the overall effect are Kurt Alger’s appropriately ragged costumes and dramatic lighting by Alan C. Edwards — except for the occasional projections, which seem distracting and unnecessary.

None of that really matters though. Judging from the audience reaction when Adams closed the first act with a moving “The Impossible Dream,” it’s almost certain the show will be back in another 10 years — if not sooner.

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The Theatre Guide Review

Man of La Mancha – John W. Engeman Theater

Cast of Man Of La Mancha. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.
September 17, 2018
By Jessica Kennedy

Northport’s Engeman Theater opened its doors for the fall season with a beloved classic and winner of 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Man of La Mancha. Produced by Richard Dolce and directed by Peter Flynn, this iconic play based on Cervantes’ magnum opus, Don Quixote, enthralled its audience with a star- studded cast and a wonderfully whimsical rendering of the literary classic.

The play opens as Miguel de Cervantes, played by the charismatic Richard Todd Adams, finds himself locked up with his loyal manservant, (the comical Carlos Lopez), and awaiting questioning by the Spanish Inquisition for foreclosing on a monastery. They are not welcomed warmly, as their fellow prisoners seek to put Cervantes on trial themselves in a thinly veiled mascarade to plunder his meager belongings.  When the leader of the ragtag group dubbed the “Governor” (the endearing Bruce Winant) sets his eyes on destroying an unfinished manuscript, Cervantes wheedles his way into casting the squalid and miry lot into performing the manuscript with him- aiding him in his defense, and helping them all keep their mind off the threat looming just over their heads. What follows- the story of a bewildered, yet beloved Don Quixote (Adams), and his loyal friend and servant, Sancho Panza (Lopez), as they seek to fight the evil forces of the Great Enchanter and win the favor of the spirited and beautiful Aldonza, or should I say, Dulcinea (the dynamic Janet Dacal), makes for a layered and enchanting theatrical experience.

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Upon entering the theater you first notice the beautiful piano bar and lounge area, where you may order a drink conceived for the show, such as a “Dulcinea” (Stoli Apple Vodka, Caramel Syrup, & Apple Cider, anyone?) and sip it leisurely as the theater pipes a Spanish melody through the lobby and lounge. Once a gentle chime announces the timely start of the show, you will make your way into the stadium- style seating theater and find that no matter where you are seated, you are exactly positioned for a great viewing experience. From the time the full orchestra pit strikes that first note, you know you are in for a polished and professional performance. The sound is even, and the volume is just right (credit to the Musical Director, Julianne B. Merrill and the Sound Design team led by Don Hanna). Additionally, the scenic design (Michael Bottari & Ronald Case) adds depth and reality to the scenes, with both trapdoors and ladders, and a functional drawbridge which ominously lurches up and down, jarring the prisoners (and the audience) from the storytelling of this frame narrative, reminding us of the danger awaiting our storyteller/hero.

This play is sharply cast and the production staff’s talent shines brightly in the lighting (Alan C. Edwards), the set, and the sound. For a total package theater experience, head to the Engeman Theater and you will not be disappointed. Although tragic in its undertones, the cast brings beauty and humor to this story- you will leave uplifted and unable to get Don Quixote’s timeless lyrics of “The Impossible Dream” out of your head and calling all your loved ones “Dulcinea” (or maybe that’s just me)!

One last note- while the content of this show is overall very suitable for a wide audience, it does contain one scene in particular which is mature in nature. Parents should be advised that there is sexual innuendo and implied sexual violence, so leave the little ones at home and come get swept away in the story of Don Quixote as he seeks “to reach the unreachable star” in a quest full of pluck and valor!

 

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Smithtown Matters Review

Theater Review – ‘Man of LaMancha’

 

September 16, 2018
By Jeb Ladouceur

Don Quixote – by Pablo Picasso

 

 

When I heard recently that Senator John McCain had decided to suspend the medical treatments that were keeping him alive … and that he had already planned every detail of his incipient funeral, including the music that he felt would best eulogize him … my first thought centered on ‘The Impossible Dream,’ from Man of La Mancha. That’s how iconic the anthem to perseverance has become for me.

As things turned out, we all now know, McCain chose to be extolled with a recorded Frank Sinatra rendition of ‘My Way,’ the stirring ballad of autobiographical praise written by Paul Anka. I remember wondering as Sinatra’s voice filled the church during the Arizona Senator’s memorial service, how much more enobling the affair might have been had the classic La Mancha ode to courage been McCain’s choice.

But there is an ancient Roman expression (“de mortuis nil nisi bonum”) which literally translated means “Let nothing be said of the dead but what is good.” Fair enough. It was, after all, John’s funeral, and if he was comfortable with the ringing tributes of ‘My Way’ and somewhat curiously, ‘Danny Boy,’ so be it.

Still, as I attended the opening of ‘Man of La Mancha’ at Northport’s lush Engeman Theatre last Saturday, and ‘The Impossible Dream’ was performed (magnificently, I must say) my mind wandered back to the Capitol Rotunda and the National Cathedral, where a courageous John McCain’s flag-draped coffin had been attended so honorably by members of the military. For those sad hours, I concluded internally that ‘The Impossible Dream’ was indeed John’s song.

But putting sentiment aside, it should be noted that musically … musically, mind you … Man of La Mancha is a sort of one-trick-pony. When the play’s unforgettable anthem isn’t being belted out by the production’s star, Richard Todd Adams, the other numbers frankly pale to near-insignificance by comparison. This is not as fatal as the observation might lead one to believe, however. For it’s during these musical lulls that Miguel de Cervantes’ immortal Don Quixote story line takes over and makes the adaption the memorable piece of theater it has become.

When it was introduced on the Broadway stage in 1965, not surprisingly, the heart-warming tale of a knight who sets out to restore gallantry to mankind, won Tony Awards for both Best Musical and Best Musical Score. The production moved to a number of playhouses on the Great White Way before making its final 2,328th performance at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1971.

An interesting aside involves the iconic Rex Harrison who, having earned innumerable plaudits starring in My Fair Lady, was seriously considered for the Don Quixote role when Man of La Mancha was testing the theatrical waters in Connecticut. Unfortunately for Harrison, the musical demands of the score proved too much for poor Henry Higgins’ vocal range … and Richard Kiley wound up in the difficult role.

Performing in Northport with leading man Richard Adams are Broadway veterans Janet Dacal (she plays a peppery Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (as the Don’s little sidekick, Sancho Panza). Both stars bring memorable performances worthy of Northport’s renowned theater … no small accomplishment when one considers the height at which Engeman invariably sets the bar for its featured artists. For example, the great Phyllis March plays the strong, opinionated Housekeeper to absolute perfection. She delivers her somewhat lesser role so artfully that we can’t take our eyes off of her. Aspiring actors would do well to study Ms. March’s technique.

This dream of a show runs thru Sunday, October 28. If I were a school teacher, I’d give extra credit to any student who brought me a Man of La Mancha ticket stub … and of course, an apple.

 

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