By SAMANTHA PIDDE

The final musical of Timber Lake Playhouse's regular 2019 summer season, "Man of La Mancha," is a touching, inspiring and poignant tale about not settling for how things are, but instead striving for how they should be.

"Man of La Mancha" is written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes' 17th century novel, “Don Quixote,” the musical shows the author and poet held by The Inquisition and telling his story of Don Quixote with the help of his fellow prisoners.

This wonderful story is brought to life by TLP's extremely talented cast. Guest actor William Michals (from the Actor's Equity Association) exudes passion, idealism and charisma as both Cervantes and Don Quixote. Michals has a beautiful, booming voice and a commanding stage presence. Whether playing the fast-talking Cervantes or the deluded, but honorable Don Quixote, there is something about Michals that ensures the audience members "Really Like Him."

The tired, weary and cynical Aldonza is portrayed wonderfully by guest performer Christina Pecce (from the Actor's Equity Association). With her gorgeous voice, Pecce's performances of "It's All The Same" and "Aldonza" perfectly show this character's pain and disdain for the life she has been given.

Guest performer Aaron Choi (from the Actor's Equity Association) is goofy, sweet and simply likable as the loyal Sancho Panza. His interactions with both Don Quixote and Aldonza are humorous and fun. All three of the actors show great chemistry with each other, and the rest of the cast.

This inspirational story would not have been as great without the deep and versatile performances by the 2019 TLP Resident Performers. Playing dual roles in the play within a play, this ensemble cast truly shines. The performers include:

Morgan Arrivillaga as Cantaora/Ensemble; Jean Christian Barry as Juan/Anselmo; Olivia Belfie as Fermina; Evan Bertram as Ensemble; Emma Buchanan as Ensemble; Rachel Davenport as Antonia; Logan Dolence as Inquisition Guard/Tenorio; Ben Dow as The Padre/Muleteer; Conor Jordan as Pedro' Rebecca Marowitz as Maria; Dalton Mathis as Jose/Guitar Player; Rory Schrobilgen as Duke/Dr. Carrasco/Knight of Mirrors; Anna Catherine Smith as House Keeper; James Tweedale as Captain of Inquisition/ Paco/The Barber; Michel Vasquez as Ensemble; Blake West as Governor/The Inn Keeper.

Much like the story itself, the music in “Man of La Mancha" is charming, funny, sad, sweet, powerful and inspirational. "Dulcinea" is a multi-faceted love song, going from sweet and beautiful by Don Quixote to mocking by Pedro and his men.

The titular "Man of La Mancha" is joyful and sets up the story well. The performers do a wonderful job with "I'm Only Thinking of Him," "What Does He Want of Me," "The Golden Helmet of Mambrino," "To Each His Dulcinea," "The Knight of the Woeful Countenance" and the rest of the soundtrack.

The iconic "The Impossible Dream" is a song that should be well-known by even those unfamiliar with "Man of La Mancha.” I can honestly say the versions by Michals and later by the full company are some of the best I have ever heard. They literally brought tears to my eyes.

This wonderful music would not be possible without the orchestra, directed by Michael McBride. The orchestra includes: McBride on percussion; Will Gaddis on guitar; Glen O'Fallon on bass; Crystal Duffee on flute/piccolo; Emily Nunemaker and Cathy James on clarinet; Samantha Jones on trumpet; Katie Mark on French horn; Joe Titus on trombone; and Ben Heppner on percussion.

The production would not have been possible without the hard work of: Director Dan Barron; Scenic Designer Kristen Martino; Costume Designer Zandra Siple; Lighting Designer Tanner Simpson; Sound Designer Kristina Parker; Props Designer Mitchell Snow; Wig and Make-up Designer Jasmine Elam, Production Stage Manager Laura Krouch and crews.

Those searching for an enjoyable evening with a wonderful story and fantastic music, should consider attending TLP's "Man of La Mancha."

"Man of La Mancha" is showing at the playhouse in rural Mount Carroll through Sunday, Aug. 18. Tickets are available online at timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2035. The box office is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.