NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Tonight I’m delighted to give a rave review. Jim Bjorklund is the best Don Quixote I’ve ever seen. He is a bright star in Man of La Mancha, and gives one of the all-time great performances in Wausau Community Theater history.
This is a tricky role. The singing, and there’s a lot of it, is the easy part. But there’s much ground to cover. Don Quixote is in every scene, and carries most of the musical heft. Bjorklund has a trained voice. His singing is rich, and full, and reflective. He is also spot-on when he sings “The Impossible Dream.” Several people in the audience were visibly moved, and the applause were loud and sustained. The more difficult number is “Man of La Mancha”, where the lead character must be convinced of his illogical destiny long before the audience is. It’s a song that must be delivered with confident abandon. Bjorklund meets the standard.
But Don Quixote is mostly a role about theatrical salesmanship. We have a play-within-a-play, a gallows tale, and a lead character that rides the line between crazy and wise. There are goods to deliver if the audience is to buy into the story. Bjorklund builds his part piece by piece. He singing draws us into his character. His confidence on-stage allows him to lead us to where he’s going. And has get us to suspend belief – for a moment Don Quixote’s dream world does seem more rational than the here-and-now.
Not once did I sense that Bjorklund was laboring… although there’s no question that tremendous work goes into this role. For a difficult part, well played - Bravo!
Our Don Quixote also has a worthy female lead. Mary Shafarik is a strong, expressive singer. As Dulcelina, she, too, must allow herself to be convinced by the logic-of-illogic. She does a good job with the rough-and-tumble parts of her role. She sets the bar high for being convinced that her tilting-and-windmills knight can touch her soul… and yet he does.
Man of La Mancha barely qualifies as a pop musical. The Spanish songs aren’t the usual fare for the musical theater. It may take you awhile to adjust to the rhythms of the evening. There’s a shortage of melody in the score. But it’s great acting that carries the evening. If you go, you’ll see one of the best community theater performances that I can remember.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
The final performance of Wausau Community Theater's Man of La Mancha is Sunday at 2pm at the Grand Theater in Wausau.