In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre is reprising the musical ‘Man of La Mancha’ through Aug. 6 at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan.
LOGAN – To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, Michael Ballam is back as Don Quixote, reprising a role that he played seven years ago in 2015.
The question in everybody’s mind is, of course, does the grand old man of the Cache Valley theater community still got it?
In a word, “Yes.”
Hard as it is to believe, Ballam’s portrayal of Don Quixote is better this time around.
Ballam is starring in the UFOMT revival of the musical Man of La Mancha at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan. His performance is superb – there’s no other word for it.
The old fox may be a little more cagey with his phasing while singing the show’s anthem “The Impossible Dream” and is undoubtedly saving his breath for the high notes, but that’s just technique.
The reality is that Ballam has grown into the role, as any gifted actor would. He seems to be more assured of his dramatic footing here, so who could blame him for wanting another crack at the role of a lifetime?
His performance still captures both the childlike innocence of the mad knight Don Quixote and the brave idealism of the prisoner Miguel de Cervantes facing interrogation by the Spanish Inquisition.
When Ballam makes his final exit to face trial, the chorus’ thundering reprise of “The Impossible Dream” is a touching salute both to Cervantes in Man of La Mancha and to 30 years of Ballam and the festival opera.
Under the direction of George Pinney, this new UFOMT production brilliantly balances the comedic and tragic aspects of Dale Wasserman’s original script for Man of La Mancha. It also delivers an uplifting message of hope triumphing over cynicism and showcases virtuoso vocal talents too numerous to list.
Ballam stars opposite the incomparable Audrey Babcock as the fiery Aldonza. In addition to her memorable turns as Carmen, Ms. Babcock has drawn critical acclaim for this role in many previous venues and she plays it here to the hilt. Her performance is electrifying.
Ever the faithful sidekick, Stefan Espinosa plays Sancho Panza with a subtle touch of his trademark rye humor.
Lee Daily, who played that sidekick role seven years ago, is back as the Barber who lends the mad knight his “magic helmet.”
A standout among the supporting cast members is Logan Wagner, who lends a lovely tenor voice to the ballad “To Each His Dulcinea” and a requiem psalm as the Padre.
Well-deserved kudos to the orchestra. Its musicians performed Mitch Leigh’s brassy score with gusto under the direction of conductor Karen Keltner, another veteran of the 2015 production.
Let’s hope that the UFOMT’s impresario is still around to play Don Quixote a decade from now when the UFOMT celebrates its 40th anniversary. The legend of Michael Ballam and Don Quixote could outlive us all.
Evening performances of the Man of La Mancha are slated at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan at 7:30 p.m. on July 13, 30 and Aug. 4.
Matinee performances are set for 1 p.m. on July 16, 20, 28 and Aug. 6.