Davis Gaines and Lesli Margherita
in Man of La Mancha
(© Ken Jacques)
Davis Gaines and Lesli Margherita
in Man of La Mancha
(© Ken Jacques)
As far as quests go, finding a near-perfect cast for the classic Broadway musical Man of La Mancha has finally been achieved by the folks at Musical Theater West, which is now presenting the Joe Darion-Mitch Leigh-Dale Wasserman tuner at the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts.

Davis Gaines, with his booming voice and delusional dignity, is fantastic as the heroic lunatic Don Quixote de la Mancha, and brings splendid nobility to "The Impossible Dream" and lyrical beauty to "Dulcinea."

As his glowing maiden, Aldonza, Lesli Margherita is lustful, guttural and utterly endearing, as the case may be. She almost growls out "Aldonza" and "It's All The Same" as if spitting out poisonous bile and then launches into a tender reprise of "Dulcinea" like the regal princess Don Quixote sees her.

Justin Robertson is blithe as Sancho Panza; Damon Kirsche is perfectly pompous as the self-involved Dr. Carrasco; and Sam Zeller brings real menace to giant ogre Pedro. When singing together, as in the final reprise of "The Impossible Dream," the cast sounds epic.

Only Jason Webb, whose lovely singing voice is overshadowed by his eye rolling and manic mugging during "I'm Only Thinking Of Him," and Steven Glaudini, whose Barber borders on Spanish stereotypes, prove disappointing.

Matthew Smedal's orchestra highlights many of the original arrangements, including the stirring flutes in "The Impossible Dream" and the joviality of the xylophone in "A Little Gossip." It is a shame that the stirring overture has been cut, especially as it's one of Broadway's finest.

The pounding intensity of flamenco, which opens the show instead, is a fascinating conceit, but it's ultimately just one of the choices by the talented director Nick DeGruccio that prove frustrating -- especially the use of a chain elevator that goes up and down three times very, very slowly. (At times, it feels like we're waiting for Godot to arrive.)

Moreover, the fight choreography in "The Battle" and "The Abduction" are both so sloppy that the grandeur of the first and the horror of the second lose their needed intensity. But even when the production wobbles, those celestial voices are there!