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Ryan Brown, Ben Hardin, Michael Andreaus and Julie Rodrigues-Santos performed in the University of Central Oklahoma's “Man of La Mancha.” [PHOTO BY WENDY MUTZ PHOTOGRAPHY]
Ryan Brown, Ben Hardin, Michael Andreaus and Julie Rodrigues-Santos performed in the University of Central Oklahoma's “Man of La Mancha.” [PHOTO BY WENDY MUTZ PHOTOGRAPHY]

In 1965, “Man of La Mancha” won many awards and spawned the classic pop hit “The Impossible Dream.” It isn’t seen often because it has a difficult score and challenging set requirements. Each character struggles between two different realities, and in the final scene each must make a choice. This constant balance on the edge of a decision is infused in the show’s setting, score and semantics, all of which makes “Man of La Mancha” a very challenging show technically, musically and dramatically. 

This past weekend the University of Central Oklahoma rose to those challenges and delivered a beautifully crafted and moving production. The cast featured lovely and healthy young voices, the music direction was superb, the set and technical design barely avoided stealing the show. 

Director Greg White, who starred in UCO’s last production of the show in 1992, brought just a touch of nostalgia to the production. Dale Wasserman’s text interweaves an interpretation of a Renaissance Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes with an interpretation of the novelist’s own experiences. The music by Mitch Leigh with lyrics by Joe Darion make extensive use of horns and guitar, contrasting and merging the brassiness of knight errantry and the gentler sound of Spanish tradition. The student orchestra, under the baton of music director Marion Searle, performed the difficult score with great skill. 

Leading the cast in the dual role of Cervantes and Don Quixote was Michael Andreaus. He carried this role with strength, using thoughtful alterations in posture and vocalization. In addition, he has the perfect voice for the role; he is a strong baritone who can fill a space with resonant and moving sound.

Ryan Brown was delightful in the role of Sancho Panza, a prototypical comic sidekick. His blend of earnest faith in his master with a cynical realism, serving as a foil to Quixote’s idealism, was a delicately balanced source of both pathos and comedy; Brown’s comic timing is one of his great skills.

Aldonza is the pivotal role in the play; she is the character faced with the greatest obstacles to any kind of healthy life, and she must face the choice that will bring the story from depressing to elevating. UCO cast Nicole Phillips and Julie Rodriques-Santos; both are excellent performers with different strengths, and each performed a unique and very effective Aldonza. 

Sean Steele as the padre was both fun to watch and a joy to listen to; his role has the two most lyrically beautiful songs and Steele performed them with exquisite grace. The role is a blend of comic and serious; Steele also negotiated the ground between the two with deftness.

Other standouts were Gregory Gore as Carrasco, Sonnet Lamb and Mica Martinez as Antonia, and Ben Hardin as the Governor/Innkeeper. 

Scenic design by Kristy Benson and lighting design by Ellen Schmidt were evocative and functional, another duality well played. The set is actually the upper level of a dungeon, and at times it has the words of Cervantes, in his own handwriting, sprayed across the walls. At other times, it becomes the courtyard of an inn or a vast plain with windmills—all accomplished with light. Costume designer Elisa Bierschenk brought just the right level of period grunge to the working class characters and contrasting cleanliness to the middle class folk.

Go to, the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design website, for information about future productions of fine and performing arts.


Anna Holloway

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