There's nothing like a rainy-day matinee at the theater. In the middle of the week. Under those unusual circumstances, off I went to the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido, which is presenting the Broadway chestnut Man of La Mancha.
It's a faithful staging of the 1965 musical, which was adapted from Dale Wasserman's original play written for TV called I, Don Quixote. Faithful as in costumes evoking 16th-century Spain, cartoonish stage fighting and, inevitably, the anthemic “The Impossible Dream (The Quest).”
Long before the wave of Cameron McIntosh / Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals that were carried by one good song, there was Man of La Mancha (music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion), whose “The Impossible Dream” remains stirring almost no matter who sings it (in the Welk production, it's star John LaLonde) or what time of the day it's sung. The remainder of the score is diverting at best, with a couple of numbers—the comic relief of Sancho Panza's “A Little Gossip,” the muleteers' “Little Bird, Little Bird”—filler, nothing more.
As to the story, the play-within-a-play allows the actor portraying Miguel de Cervantes all the elbow room he needs to exude bug-eyed madness and idealism, and LaLonde takes full advantage. He's complimented by Natalie Nucci as the bitter and beautiful prostitute Aldonza, whom Don Quixote romanticizes as his “Dulcinea.” As sidekick Panza, Daniel Berlin comes off like a young Dom DeLuise. Or should we say Don DeLuise?
One of the more inventive, and charming, aspects of this Man of La Mancha is that the live music is performed by the actors on the stage: acoustic guitars, a flute, percussion. The double duties are managed seamlessly, and the instruments of choice ensure that the score doesn't become bombastic, even during “The Impossible Dream,” which closes the first act.
The set is crowded but not claustrophobic, and in these confines the Act 2 ravaging of Aldonza by the muleteers feels all the more disturbing. It's an apt moment to remember that “The Impossible Dream” will reprise at the finale and brighten the darkness.
Man of La Mancha runs through Nov. 4 at Welk Resort Theatre. $44-$47. welktheatersandiego.com
Dead Man's Cell Phone: Technology and mortality intersect in this new comedy by MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Sarah Ruhl. Delicia turner Sonnenberg directs for Moxie Theatre. Opens Oct. 15. $20-$40. moxietheatre.com
Gypsy: A Musical Fable: Ion Theatre presents the classic musical by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. Opens Oct. 14 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn. $10-$34. iontheatre.com
Hair: Broadway San Diego presents the Public Theater's Tonywinning staging of the '60s counterculture musical. Opens Oct. 18 at Civic Theatre, Downtown. $26.50-$56. broadwaysd.com
The Servant of Two Masters: Former Lamb's Players Theatre staff member David McFadzean (who went on to create Home Improvement) returns to Coronado with a new Italian-flavored musical comedy. Opens Oct. 14 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $14-$60. lambsplayers.org
Walter Cronkite is Dead: Two women of opposing political dispositions find themselves stranded together at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., in this comedy by Joe Calarco. Through Oct. 16 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, Downtown. $37 and up. sdrep.org
Man of La Mancha: In this staging of the Broadway musical that gave the world “The Impossible Dream,” the actors are also the musicians. Through Oct. 30 at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $44-$47. welktheatersandiego.com
Somewhere: A family's dream of being in show business collides with the filming of West Side Story in their downtrodden neighborhood. Through Oct. 20 at the Old Globe's Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$75. oldglobe.org
26 Miles: A 15-year-old is kidnapped by her estranged mother in this revelatory play by Quiara Alegria Hudes presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company. Through Oct. 23 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. $22-$30. Moolelo.net
Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show: Brad, Janet and, most importantly, Dr. Frank N. Furter return to the stage 38 years after a memorable debut in London and a film adaptation. Through Nov. 6 at the Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Dec. 18 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org
Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner. mysterycafe.net