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Cast of versatile actors in ‘Man of La Mancha’

Photo courtesy Dale Johnson
Sally Neel and Malinda Fultz wrap up orchestra rehearsals for the Curtains Up Pagosa! winter musical production of “Man of La Mancha.”  Sally is musical director while Malinda plays in the pit orchestra.

By Sally Neel
Special to The PREVIEW

The Curtains Up Pagosa! cast of “Man of La Mancha” is busily putting the final touches on what promises to be a spectacular production at Pagosa Springs High School, Dec. 12-15.

Tickets are now on sale at the Chamber of Commerce downtown office — $15 for adults, $12 seniors (65-plus), and $10 for students.  Tickets can also be purchased at the door. (This production is not recommended for children under 12 due to content and violence.)

“Man of La Mancha,” starring Dave Armbrecht as Cervantes/Don Quixote, is one of the most beloved musical plays of our time, offering a timeless message of hope, optimism, and human kindness amidst great adversity.  Armbrecht brings his abundant acting and singing talents to the stage, portraying the character of Cervantes as a thoughtful and insightful poet and playwright, and the character of Don Quixote as a loveable, idealistic, and somewhat zany seeker of truth and human kindness.  He makes a believable distinction between the two while ultimately revealing that indeed, the two characters are one.

Darcy DeGuise, who made her Pagosa debut performance as the Fairy Godmother in last summer’s production of “Cinderella,” once again brings her beautiful soprano voice, proving her acting skills in a totally different and challenging role of Aldonza/Dulcinea.  DeGuise convincingly portrays the wounded streetwise woman, showing conflicting elements of anger, confusion, and sweetness.  Aldonza has nothing but disdain and disgust toward a cruel and greedy world that has shown nothing but unkindness to her.  Understandably, when Quixote shows compassion towards her, offering respect, love, and kindness, mistakenly calling her his Dulcinea, Aldonza has a very difficult time accepting such a gift.  DeGuise gives a touching and believable portrayal of the character’s conflicting emotions and the ultimate emotional and spiritual evolution of a woman redeemed.

Jarret Heber, who is no stranger to the Curtains Up Pagosa! list of veteran performers, gives a humorous, innocent, and childlike portrayal of Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza.  Heber, who played the prince in “Cinderella,” and who has had leading roles in “Annie,” “Into the Woods”  and “Plaid Tidings,” and has been a featured performer in many other CUP productions, brings sweetness and joy to Sancho Panza, utilizing his lyric tenor voice to punctuate his performance of the loyal, loveable sidekick.  His character serves as a comic relief in a play that teeters on the edge of inhumane darkness and joyful hope.

The play demands strong acting skills from its cast as they alternate between characters. The audience will delight in the convincing and powerful performance of student actor Ben Reece, who alternately plays the intimidating Governor of the prisoners and the comic innkeeper in this play within a play.  Braydon Mitchell, who has come up through the ranks from child actor (playing Oliver Twist in the musical by the same name), portrays both a belligerent Muleteer and a comic barber, utilizing his still lovely singing voice in a solo performance.

CUP alumnus Chrissy Ferguson, appears as the niece of Don Quixote, and is featured in a delightful trio “I’m only thinking of him” with tenor, Keith Paulson (Padre), and Dale Johnson.  Roger Jenson, also a veteran performer with CUP, alternately plays the part of Dr. Carrasco and the ominous role of Man of the Mirrors.

Kurt Laverty, who played the comic role of the King in “Cinderella,” plays an ominous and frightening role of Pedro, an abusive bully who wishes to claim Aldonza as his own.  Laverty also shows his skills as a musician as he plays guitar for the beautiful haunting song, “Little Bird,” featuring tenor Phil Kuhl.

No musical would be complete without beautiful dancing to go along with the singing, and this musical does not disappoint.  Student actor and dancer Hayley Hudson lends her training and talent as choreographer of the “Moorish Dance,” leading a troop of dancers in an impressive and graceful visual display.

“Our student actors are not incidental in this play,” says director Dale Johnson.  “We rely heavily on the skills they have acquired over the years through their experiences with CUP. I have great respect and appreciation for their hard work and their amazing talents. Each student actor has been carefully mentored by our veteran adult actors and directors, and their maturity and abilities shine forth in this wonderful production.”

“Man of La Mancha” is a production by Curtains Up Pagosa! (formerly Music Boosters), a publicly-supported, non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen youth through the performing arts and adult volunteer mentorship.  All proceeds go towards support of student arts programs in the schools and scholarships for seniors planning to major in the arts.

For more information, go to www.pagosamusicboosters.org.

This story was posted on December 6, 2012.