On Tuesday evening I saw one of the shows remembered fondly from my youth when I saw it for the first time on Broadway. Knowing the show, I took the opportunity to attend one of the many events provided by the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) which is to meet the cast of their shows at a ‘meet the cast’ evening. So knowing the show, having met the cast and heard about their backgrounds still didn’t prepare me for the impact this show has when performed as brilliantly as this cast did it.
It is directed by the masterful Alan Paul who recently had a great piece written about him in the Washington Post. Alan assembled a cast for the show that is just superb. Anthony Warlow as Cevantes/Don Quixote brings alive every song he sings and when he does The Impossible Dream the thunderous ovation is richly deserved. The audience gets goosebumps. Washington, D.C. audiences are lucky to have the chance to hear and see this incredible Australian singer and actor.
Then there is Amber Iman who plays Aldonza. She went to school here in D.C. at Howard University and clearly must make them proud. She has an absolutely beautiful voice and is a fine actress as well. She brings the audience to tears as she reprises Dulcinea toward the end of the show.
The show is just under two hours without an intermission and it never once slows down. Each member of the cast is great and they take turns displaying their talent and each receives heartfelt applause. I’m Only Thinking of Him/We’re Only Thinking of Him are both performed to perfection by Martin Sola, Maria Failla, Robert Mammana and Rayanne Gonzales. Sancho played by Nehal Joshi is perfectly cast and so much fun to watch. He has been at the Shakespeare before in The Boys of Syracuse and hopefully audiences will get to see him again.
What is also wonderful about this Man of La Mancha is the live orchestra seated not in an orchestra pit but in the boxes above the stage. It is directed by the supremely talented George Fulginiti-Shakar who has won two Helen Hayes awards and been nominated seven times. Every part of this production combines to make it a great night in the theater and that includes scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, choreography by Marcos Santana and lighting by Robert Wierzel. There is a great fight scene choreographed to perfection by David Leong.
Everything about La Mancha led the audience to jump to their feet and give the cast a richly deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.
I would suggest for a great night in the theater you get tickets to Man of La Mancha which will be at the Harman through April 26th.
On Wednesday, March 4th there was a celebration for the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address held in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. The event was sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and the Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C.
It was a moving evening to be sitting in Statuary Hall which was where the House of Representatives met when Lincoln was a Congressman. There is a marker where his desk was.
I was invited by my good friend Harold Holzer who is a Lincoln Scholar and Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He spoke of Lincoln the man and the statesman, as always when he speaks making Lincoln come alive for everyone in the audience. His latest book is Lincoln and the Press: The War for Public Opinion. Other speakers included Rodney Davis (R-IL) who represents Springfield, Il; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Chair, Department of History, Howard University; and the Hon. Ray LaHood, former Secretary of Transportation; member of Congress and Co-Chair of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Before talking about Lincoln LaHood apologized to actor Stephen Lang who was there to recite Lincoln’s inaugural address, for not recognizing who he was. He told Lang that was likely the biggest mistake he has made since leaving congress. Some in the room may have thought the mistake referred to the person who now has his seat, Aaron Schrock, who is best known for decorating his Congressional office to look like a set from the TV show Downton Abbey.
Lang, a renowned and incredibly talented actor who has appeared often on TV and in many films including Avatar, did credit to the inaugural address. His voice rang out in that room as he spoke some of Lincoln’s most famous words which are the last paragraph of the address; “With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and all nations.”
It was an evening to remember and what made it extra moving was hearing those words ring out realizing just to the left of Lang as he spoke them was the statue of Rosa Parks.
If you like to laugh and feel really good when you walk out of a show then you need to see Metromaniacs at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC). I wrote about attending a rehearsal of the play but was still blown away when I saw it on Tuesday evening. David Ives who adapted it from an obscure 1738 French play La Metromanie is just brilliant. The direction by Michael Kahn brings it to life in a way no other director could. It is not only the words but the physicality of the actors, every movement means something, and each elicits a laugh. Kahn has directed other David Ives plays at the Shakespeare including The Liar and The Heir Apparent and those who saw them will not want to miss this because they know how great the collaboration between Ives and Kahn is. David Ives said, “These three plays have been some of the most fun I have ever had in the theater”. Those who have seen them all will agree audiences feel the same.
The play is about mistaken identity and everyone being incognito at a party. They are lusting after people they have never seen and deliciously making fools of themselves in the process. The actors that Kahn chose are each perfect in their roles. Amelia Pedlow as Lucille has been at the STC before as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. Her beauty and comedic skills shine in this production. Dina Thomas as Lisette makes her STC debut and we can only hope she will be back. She is glorious.
Some other cast members have been at the STC before and include Anthony Roach as Dorante. Dorante is the good-looking hunk who isn’t quite bright. Anthony clearly is a good-looking hunk so that part is easy but it takes a good actor to play stupid so well. Anthony leaves this production to star in Guys and Dolls at the Goodspeed Theater Company. Then there is Christian Conn as Damis. He was at the STC as Dorante in The Liar among other productions. Not much to say about Christian other than he is a superb actor and great in this role. When he is onstage you are drawn to him. He is another actor that if we are lucky will continue to grace the STC stage. Michael Goldstrom as Mondor makes his STC debut and is perfectly cast and a wonder to watch. His comedic talents are clearly evident throughout the production. Peter Kybart as Baliveau and Adam LeFEVRE as Francalou both make their STC debuts and are perfectly cast and incredibly talented. Part of the wonder of Metromaniacs is that all the actors just seem like they are having a great time.
I was fortunate to be part of a theater party that had cocktails with the cast after the show. Each and every one of them is as nice off-stage as they are great on-stage. It’s always fun to hear their thoughts on the audience and what makes a production fun for them. Without exception they all raved about being in a production directed by Kahn. The play has been extended to the middle of March so you can still get tickets at STC. Don’t miss out on this fun evening in the theater.