Man of La Mancha is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Since its premiere at a Greenwich Village theatre in 1965, when it won a Tony for Best Musical, it has had four Broadway revivals and numerous productions all over the world. Its endurance is based on its gorgeous score and its 400 year-old classic story of the dreamer, Don Quixote, who imagines only good and gallantry in a dark, ugly world.
The Barrington Stage Company excels in several different areas — modern classics, musicals, and brainy little contemporary plays — and is plagued only by one persistent flaw, the policy of using excessive amplification even in the diminutive Stage 2 theatre. Fortunately, that was absent in this performance, and all I have to talk about is theatre.
Julie Boyd appears to have perfect pitch when it comes to revivals of Broadway successes of the earlier twentieth century. Last summer, Private Lives couldn’t have been funnier or more engaging. It was very much Broadway Coward more than West End Coward, but one is as true to his cosmopolitan spirit as the other. Now she has opened the BSC season with a winning production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel (1946). The musical held its audience for many years through the 1950’s in several important revivals, and it was made into the obligatory overblown and lumbering Hollywood film. It’s considered something of a classic, not only because of its addictive tunes and Downeast atmosphere, but because its dark—but, let’s face it, candy-coated—elements, mainly Billy Bigelow’s incorrigible crookedness and violent temper, it has gained a reputation as a musical that was a cut above the rest, a “serious” musical, which inspired Nicholas Hytner’s pretentious revival in the mid-1990’s. This American classic fares much better in Julie Boy’s hands. She responds to it intuitively, without showing the slightest temptation to make something of it that it is not, and bringing to to life with solid theatrical values: excellent acting, singing, and dancing. Joshua Bergasse is the choreographer—bravo! Robert Mark Morgan’s set was very pleasing as well, glowing with muted warm and cold hues that responded richly to the changing lighting, designed by Scott Pinkney.
Lucas Miller reviews Noël Coward’s famous comedy, Private Lives, in August, at the Barrington Stage.