Even the makeshift lance toted around by the title character of “Man of La Mancha” looks to be weighing heavy these days. And why should it be any different from every other element in this revival?
Despite a few sure-fire songs and a sentimental book that will always find its audience, “La Mancha” hasn’t aged with grace. All too obvious are its manipulations, its stop-and-start method of plugging songs into the narrative, even its easy philosophizing. Albert Marre, who staged the 1965 original, has done little if anything to revitalize the tuner.
Treating “La Mancha” as a museum piece has done the work no service. It might be a nice touch, sentimentally, to include so many original cast members in this revival, but it doesn’t work so well theatrically. The ensemble only adds to the production’s muddied, murky feel.
But even more unfortunate are the lackluster performances by the leads, Raul Julia and Scottish pop diva Sheena Easton.
Julia is oddly lacking in presence, despite standing what looks to be several heads taller than his co-star. There’s no poignance in his Don Quixote, and a Don Quixote without poignance is no better than a musical without a star. Vocally, Julia is shaky at best.
Easton is pleasant enough in her less-taxing musical numbers, but her lack of stage experience and technique shows. (Apparently compensating for a weak speaking voice, Easton talks in a register somewhere between Lauren Bacall and Harvey Fierstein.)
Tony Martinez, who has played the role of the faithful servant Sancho in every major production since the first, is a trouper. If his performance too often seems rote, he also provides the production with some emotional resonance.
In the role of the Padre, David Wasson does well, particularly with “To Each His Dulcinea.”
Set–a large faux-stone oval that serves as the dungeon floor on which Cervantes weaves his windmill-tilting tale–doesn’t quite reach Broadway standards. A large staircase occasionally descends, drawbridge-style, for access to and from the dungeon. Costumes are a bit too studied in their raggedness.
Producer (and composer) Mitch Leigh is touting the revival as a 25 th-anniversary production, although a more accurate count would put the tuner at 27–a bit young to be lying about its age. Or maybe not.