Monday, June 08, 2009

Mountain Play 1: Man of La Mancha

"Oh good, we're going on a field trip," Scott said as we climbed into school buses in Mill Valley for a ride up Mount Tamalpais for the 96th annual version of "The Mountain Play" at its mountaintop amphitheatre (click here).

On winding, narrow roads we perilously drove around two other school buses that had broken down on the way up, which just added an element of danger and theatrical excitement to the afternoon.

This year's musical was the 1960s Broadway hit, "Man of La Mancha" from a TV play called "I, Don Quixote" by the fascinatingly eccentric Dale Wasserman, who just died in Arizona in his 90s last December (click here for his website hawking his memoir and unproduced plays).

Its gloss on Cervantes and "Don Quixote" is a strange mixture of "follow your dreams" hokum and sophisticated stagecraft which deals with plays within plays within plays.

Unfortunately, the cast wasn't up to the vocal demands of the musical which can get almost operatic at times, and the staging was below The Mountain Play's usual standards. When Sancho Panza has the best voice in "Man of La Mancha," it's not a good sign.

Matters were not helped by the actress playing the lead part of Dulcinea trying out a phony Spanish accent that sounded like a cross between George Hamilton in "Zorro, The Gay Blade" ("fight injoostice to the pipples") and Rita Moreno as Googie Gomez in "The Ritz" ("everytangs cohmeen up chhhhroses"). Scott, above, got a bad case of the involuntary giggles during her song, "Why Do Joo Do Da Tangs Dat Joo Do?"

Our hostess for the afternoon was the writer Beth Spotswood above (click here) who is the Development Director for the organization. She was radiating good energy as she dealt with broken down buses, needy donors, and thousands of people crawling over the top of Mount Tamalpais.

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