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Westminster’s `La Mancha’ is marvelous

SHARE Westminster’s `La Mancha’ is marvelous

The same bold spirit that leads "the world's wisest madman or the world's maddest wiseman" into battle against windmills and rowdy muleteers must also have partly influenced Michael Vought and Christopher Quinn, this show's co-directors.

Not many schools with small theater and music departments have the guts to tackle such a large-scale production as "Man of La Mancha."Frequent theatergoers probably won't find a lot of familiar names in the cast and credits, but what they will get here is a magnificently rewarding effort.

The three central players are Stephen Ivey as playwright/poet Cervantes and his play-within-a-play counterpart, Don Quixote; Jennifer Rouse Jemming as the slatternly Aldonza and Quixote's stubbornly reluctant Dulcinea, and Jared D. Thomson in a terrific, knockout performance as the hilarious Sancho Panza. They're a triumphant trio indeed.

Thomson, especially, gives the show a hefty shot of gleeful comedy relief, balancing out Ivey and Jemming's darker, dramatic moments in their portrayals of the befuddled Knight of the Woeful Countenance and the muleteers' whore, respectively.

The supporting cast, many in multiple roles, is strong, too. Two notable standouts are John Welsh as the prisoner who prosecutes Cervantes' case before a jury of his peers (before the dreaded Inquisition takes its turn), as surly Dr. Carrasco and as the defiant Knight of Mirrors, and David A. Neisler as the prisoners' "governor" and the innkeeper.

Also, Thomas K. Rodgers as the hilarious barber, J. Kim Taylor as the kindly padre and Patrick C. Kibbie and Matt Morressey as Quixote and Sancho's horses (the latter spotlighting some of Nina Vought's inventive costuming).

Nina's scenery was also impressive. Despite the Courage Theatre's somewhat limited space (it's certainly no Pioneer Memorial Theatre or Kingsbury Hall), Vought managed to create a two-tiered, 16th-century prison courtyard.

Kudos for other major technical credits include Ginny Grady's choreography, Jerry Gardner's fight choreography (notably in Quixote's grand battle against Aldonza's tormentors), Amanda Finlayson's lighting and Richard Brickner's sound.

A few of the performances may be slightly rough - not unlike the stucco and stone interior of the dark, cold prison in Seville, Spain. But, overall, Vought's large cast and Quinn's 17 musicians succeed nicely in this intimate rendition of author Dale Wasserman, composer Mitch Leigh and lyricist Joe Darion's Broadway hit.