Man of La Mancha

Photo courtesy of Ten Thousand Things Theatre

Often, when the big hits and famous songs arrive in musicals, there is a flurry of anticipation from the audience—it's that song!—and the tune is greeted with rapturous applause at the end, no matter the quality. When Steven Epp as Don Quixote sings "Dream the Impossible Dream" in Man of La Mancha, you can hear a pin drop. Sung a cappella, Epp's version snaps the song back into its context as a love song from the mad knight to Aldonza, the prostitute he believes to be a lady in waiting. Fueled by Epp's terrific performance and director Michelle Hensley's ability to get to the heart of any material, Man of La Mancha strips the musical bare from beginning to end. Seven actors play all the roles. The music arrives via keyboards and percussion. Sets and costumes, as usual for Ten Thousand Things, are minimal and improvised. At one moment, Epp asked an audience member for her program, which he then fashioned into a very rough knife/sword so Quixote could fight his rival. This playfulness only sharpens the tragedies at the center of the show—of Quixote's need to be mad to finally be truly free, and of his creator's trial of his ideals before a court of prisoners (which probably went better than the one before the Inquisition, which looms over the entire proceedings). Man of La Mancha reaches into the mind, heart, and soul in a way that all the flashy sets, cast of thousands, and bold, auditorium-filling voices never manage. $25. Minnesota Opera Center, 620 N. First St., Minneapolis (April 22-24; May 6-8); Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis (April 29-May 1); 612.203.9502. Through May 8

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