This undernourished road show production of “Man of La Mancha” may work better in a more intimate theatrical environment, but it certainly has not found a home in the cavernous Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Though the company strives to bring some life to this musical tale of Don Quixote (Robert Goulet) and his faithful companion Sancho Panza (Darryl Ferrer), the proceedings are completely undermined by Goulet’s lethargic portrayal of the title role and Albert Marre’s unimaginative, community theater-level direction.
Set in a 16th-century Spain still in the throes of the Inquisition, Dale Wasserman’s tale-within-a-tale finds poet/novelist Miguel de Cervantes imprisoned for acts against the Church. Goulet does little more than get out his lines as Cervantes. And when he dons the comical beard and mustache, he never comes close to creating a persona for the gently unbalanced Quixote, who battles windmills, imagines the whore Aldonza (Susan Hoffman) to be the fine lady Dulcinea and sets out “to add some measure of grace to the world.”
Goulet’s richly timbered baritone voice is still in evidence but his energy, sense of tempo and pitch never quite reach the mark as he makes his way through such melodious fare as “I, Don Quixote,” “Dulcinea” and the classic “The Impossible Dream.” He is much more in the flow when supported by the ensemble, as in the light-hearted “Golden Helmet of Mambrino.”
Hoffman is stiff and comfortable with Aldonza when the scullery wench is speaking. It’s in song where she comes alive — properly scornful in the anti-male “It’s All the Same,” tenderly inquisitive in “What Does He Want of Me,” and a tower of rage in “Aldonza.”
As the perennial second banana Sancho Panza, Darryl Ferrer is so understated that his punchlines lag about a beat behind where the laughs should be. The same can be said of his unenthusiastic renderings of two potential comedy highlights, “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip.”
Though the ensemble appears to be capable of greater effort, Marre’s staging is designed for actors who can’t move, especially in production numbers. The only numbers that rise above the overall mediocrity of the production are the comically self-serving “I’m Only Thinking of Him,” due to an inspired performance by David Wasson as the Priest, Ted Farlow’s hilarious comedic outing as “The Barber,” and William Parcher’s droll portrayal of the Innkeeper in “The Dubbing.”
The set and lighting designs by Howard Bay and Gregory Allen Hirsch, respectively, adequately fill the Pasadena Civic’s vast stage area but at times actually dwarf the narrowly confined onstage action.