The June 10th opening night of this perennial favorite fully lived up to the high standards we have come to expect from the Princeton Festival. Based on the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, written around 1605, the story of the would-be elderly knight, and his irrepressible efforts to see the world as he thinks it should be, rather than as it is tells us to never surrender the hope that our dreams may be made real.
Jesse Malgieri, and Jordan Bunshaft, as Don Quixote and his faithful companion, Sancho Panza, were absolutely magnificent. Mr. Malgieri looked, acted and sang the part to perfection. Comparing performances is always dangerous, but I feel confident in saying that Mr. Malgieri was fully equal to the performance given by Richard Kiley in the original production at Washington Square Theater in 1965 — a performance that catapulted Kiley into stardom. 1965 was a long time ago, and I was but a mere youth, but I knew then what I liked, just as I do now. Kiley’s performance blew me away, and I cannot say that Mr. Malgieri did so to any lesser degree. He was great.
Jordan Bunshaft was also a total delight. His comic portrayal of Sancho Panza perfectly captured the long suffering, but utterly loyal spirit of the character. The same must be said of Sandra Marante who played Aldonza/Dulcinea. Ms. Marante brought a wonderfully powerful singing voice to the role along with first class acting ability. Though Aldonza is a tough, lower class tavern wench, Don Quixote truly believes she is beautiful, and a lady — the Dulcinea of his dreams. While Aldonza always knows this is not true, his faith in her brings her to the realization that she indeed has value as a person, and that in his eyes she really is beautiful. This is not an easy role to make believable, yet Ms. Marante succeeded in doing so brilliantly.
Patrick James in the supporting role of prison inmate governor/innkeeper very much looked, acted, and sang the part entirely in harmony with the standard set by the show’s leads, and gave us an excellent performance, as did Kyle Guglielmo as the Duke/Dr. Carrasco.
The minimalist set design by Wesley Cornwell worked perfectly, and was in keeping with the general tradition of productions of this show down through the years. Michael Dean Morgan, director and Louis F. Goldberg, musical director, merit the highest praise for giving us a production that fully earned the audience’s standing ovation on opening night.
For the performance schedule of this show, as well as the many other offerings of this year’s festival, check princetonfestival.org. Don’t delay, this show sells out fast, and for good reason!