Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So much talent; so little time


Theater in San Diego is as varied as the jewels in a royal crown, each one offering its own unique light and sparkle.

In five years of reflecting on the gems here, I’ve never seen a “faux stone.”  The talent pool is large and varied, the fare is a lively mix of drama, musicals and new experimental work, and – this is a critical element – the actors, musicians and crew are passionate.  It shows.

Sunday’s matinee of “Man of LaMancha” at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town was a treat for this Broadway baby.  Veteran hoofer and director, the versatile Sean Murray, delivered a thoughtful and touching Don Quixote, backed by a powerhouse cast.  This was my seventh “LaMancha” worldwide, imaginatively staged and beautifully lit, a fast-paced thrill. From the moment a pair of classical guitarists approached the stage to the immediate standing ovation before the final lyric faded, I was transported to look at the beauty, accentuate the positive.  The play has not lost its luster.  Murray makes the role his own – as did Richard Kiley, Raul Julia, Peter O’Toole and Robert Goulet --  with a poet’s understanding of the rich lyrics, and an elegant phrasing of the lines.  Bryan Barbarin’s Sancho is endearing as the devoted sidekick, and there are no weak links in the support, from the important trio of female vocalists/actors to the spirited muleteers, the padre, duke and captain. The six pit musicians are precise and enhancing, never intrusive.
If it’s been a while since you conjured a knight fighting a windmill or dreamed your own impossible dream, there is still time.  The run continues through Aug. 26: 619 337-1525 or Cygnettheatre.com

And a tip: hitch your play-going wagon to any production boasting Sean Murray’s name.  His gifts are enormous, including a brilliant Sweeney Todd, and his directorial triumphs range from hilarious stagings of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Noises Off,” to an engaging “Our Town,”  a smooth and sophisticated “Private Lives,” a delightful “Dirty Blonde,” gender-bending “Cabaret” and more. How lucky we are that he wears Cygnet’s artistic director hat, and loves life here.  He could ply his talents anywhere!

Watch for my look at other stars in San Diego’s theatrical crown, including the Old Globe, Northcoast Repertory Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre and LaJolla Playhouse.

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