A dark and powerful “Man of La Mancha” comes to Orlando Shakes

Man of La Mancha

Laura Hodos as Aldonza, Matt Zambrano as Sancho, and Davis Gaines as Don Quixote star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Man of La Mancha.” (Photo by Luke Evans.)

ORLANDO – Davis Gaines cuts a truly commanding presence as Cervantes, the tax collector, playwright and dreamer in the legendary Broadway show “Man of La Mancha,” now being performed at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, that he’s thrilling ever moment he’s on stage.

Gaines has a marvelously towering voice from the very start, when he performs the show’s classic opening title song, “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote).” For the next two hours, he beautifully balances humor, pathos and more than a bit of tragedy in his performance. He’s particularly good when matched up against the equally stunning Laura Hodos as his imaginary love, Dulcinea. The two of them could have carried on the entire show themselves and been a pure delight to watch.

This beautifully mounted production of the 1964 Broadway hit by Dale Wasserman was directed by Nick DeGruccio, and his approach made me feel like I was watching the show for the first time. In several of the past productions that I’ve seen in Central Florida, the cast and directors emphasized humor, as the befuddled dreamer Cervantes and his loyal sidekick Sancho Panza were portrayed as comedic figures whose actions verged on slapstick. Continue reading

Fringe Review: “Molly’s Comedy Cabaret”

Molly's Comedy Cabaret Orlando Fringe

“Molly’s Comedy Cabaret” is a hilarious show by Canadian singer and entertainer Molly Wilson.

ORLANDO – Watching singer and entertainer Molly Wilson perform her cabaret show at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, I thought for a moment about what it takes to create a really first-rate solo act.
I had already seen quite a few solo shows at Fringe this month, ranging from singers to dramatic readings to intense dramas.
Molly Wilson’s show has a fairly simple and straightforward concept: Molly’s stunningly beautiful voice is used to great effect on some well-chosen songs, and she has great comedic timing. By the end of the hour, as Molly joked with the audience and thanked them for coming, I couldn’t help think about how much work she must have done creating this show; because while it can be summed up as songs and comedy, Molly Wilson is wonderfully entertaining, and truly knows how to reach an audience.
In the beginning of the show, Molly does a particularly effective job of not only introducing herself, but also touching something heartfelt in so many of us: the idea of the small town kid with big dreams. A native of the small town of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Molly noted that the locals often asked her why she couldn’t pursue a practical profession, like being a dentist, rather than aiming to become an actress and singer.

Her response: to turn to her mom and say no, singing is her true goal in life. Continue reading

Fringe Review: “Theodore’s Super Fun Adventure”

Theodore's Super Fun Adventure Orlando Fringe

There are plenty of laughs to be found watching “Theodore’s Super Fun Adventure” at the Orlando Fringe Festival.

ORLANDO – “Theodore’s Super Fun Adventure” starts off as a gay-meets-cute comedy, has a wonderfully engaging performance by lead actor Mike Van Dyke, tosses out plenty of funny quips … and then it takes a radical, startling change in tone at the end.

The very light beginning is almost a bit misleading at first, and as I thought about the play afterwards, I realized I had missed the initial clues about the direction it was heading in.
But they were there from the start.
“Theodore’s,” now playing at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, was written by local funnyman Bobby DeSormier and directed by veteran performer Rob Ward. It begins as a comedy about a nervous, socially awkward young gay man from the sticks, Theodore (Van Dyke), who just moved to the Big Apple, found himself an apartment above a local restaurant, and even has a gay bar right across the street. Continue reading

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