Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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The news from La Mancha

May 09, 2007

Geoff Elliott as Don Quixote
Photo: Craig Schwartz/A Noise Within 2007
The spring season is in full swing at Glendale’s A Noise Within Repertory Theater company, and Saturday I went to see their “big show” of the season, Man of La Mancha. I know I thought the same thing - "You've got to be kidding." But as is the ANW tradition, I actually learned something. Armed with a treasure trove of acting talent from their stable of regulars, the company provides year-round theatrical staples and probably the thing I admire most about them is their ability to take a well-worn work such as La Mancha and make it clear why the piece is so famous in the first place. The company doesn’t often do musicals, but when they do, they tend to pull out all of the stops and Saturday was no exception. Julia Rodriguez-Elliott was in the director’s chair and she should be recognized for marshaling a kinetic and highly spirited performance from her cast across the board. Her husband and ANW founder, regular, and jack-of-all-trades Geoff Elliott played Don Quixote, and while I often find his performances overly mannered, he was perfect here. His overblown histrionics were a perfect fit for Quixote and he did exactly what needed to be done, drawing attention to the character that is the centerpiece and La Mancha’s reason for being.

The rest of the cast was equally well prepared and the show worked at virtually every moment – funny, engaging, and interesting. Musical support was given by David O on the piano and Kevin Tiernan who played guitar throughout. If there is any larger criticism to be made of the evening, it is that the company favored its own regular cast members who were often not the strongest singers over importing ringers with better vocal chops. However, nothing descended into caterwauling and I found myself thinking, why have I always had such a negative association with this musical in my mind? It’s a really good show and probably the best thing ANW has mounted in their current Glendale home since Ubu Roi in 2005. Man of La Mancha has been extended through June 10th so you should head over and see it if you get a chance.

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